Visionary fashion designer Pierre Cardin died Tuesday at age 98. After a career that spanned more than 70 years and began with costume design on Jean Cocteau’s 1946 Beauty and the Beast, the Italy-born, naturalized Frenchman passed away at the American Hospital outside Paris.
Cardin’s family called this “a day of great sadness” and noted, “across a century, the great couturier that he was left France and the world an artistic heritage unique to fashion, but not only that.”
Cardin was a savvy businessman who became the first fashion designer to mass produce haute couture while also successfully licensing his brand and owning the Maxim’s chain of restaurants along with his own fashion house.
Born to French parents on July 2, 1922, near Venice, Cardin moved to France at the age of 2. He first worked as an accountant, then did uncredited work on Beauty and the Beast before taking an apprenticeship with Christian Dior. He opened his own fashion house in 1950 and presented his first collection in 1953.
Cardin’s fashions dressed scores of iconic figures including Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Jeanne Moreau, Charlotte Rampling, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
His 1964 Space Age collection remains a landmark in fashion history with its cut-out dresses, knitted catsuits, tight leather pants, close-fitting helmets and batwing jumpers. One of his most memorable creations, a pink dress compoised of molded 3D shapes and made from his fabric Cardine, was worn by actress Lauren Bacall in 1968.
He was the first designer to venture deeply into merchandising, with his perfumes and accessories that have been distributed throughout more than 100 locations worldwide, according to French reports.
Cardin most recently was featured in the 2019 documentary House of Cardin, directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
In 1987, Cardin was named a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. In 1991, France made him an Officer of the Legion of Honour, and he also was named a goodwill ambassador by UNESCO.
Denise Petski contributed to this story.