Pierre Cardin, who fearlessly bent and broke the rules of design on his own terms, passed away on December 29 at age 98. In his illustrious career, lasting well over 70 years, Cardin led a number of revolutions in fashion and beyond – taking great pride in building a business empire surrounding his name and approaching fashion with a vision of democracy and inclusion.
Armed with the intention to embody the future in all that he did, Cardin played an integral role in bringing the high fashion of Paris to markets in Asia and Central Europe – opening up the Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing markets before any other designer. Today, these cities are fashion capitals.
Cardin went against the grain, fighting elite fashion norms by licensing and creating ready-to-wear fashion, an action that was unprecedented and highly criticized at the time. This move led Cardin to be temporarily expelled from the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, an organization that determines which designer labels can be designated as “Haute Couture,” or high-fashion dress-making. Despite early backlash, Cardin’s decision to democratize designer clothing became a trend – making ready-to-wear clothing and designer name licensing commonplace today.
On a similar cord, Cardin’s fashions themselves embraced the Space Age, with all its wonder and possibility. Cardin rattled all that fashion had known, designing, in his own words, “a life that does not yet exist.” Using supernatural, architectural silhouettes, paired with a sleek, minimalistic touch, Cardin designed for the future. Cardin changed the face of both womenswear and menswear – leading a revolution – embracing freedom and fantasy in a way that resonated with the youth.
Cardin saw himself as a businessman, seeking to create more than just fashion. He licensed products of every size, shape and variety – allowing his name to reach the masses and becoming the man behind a global brand. Additionally, Cardin bought theaters, hotels, restaurants and more.
Cardin was a man who took risks and always held on to his convictions. As a tremendously talented couturier, artist, businessman and visionary, he will be remembered for his fascination with the future and his commitment to sharing fashion with as many people as he possibly could. The mark Cardin left on fashion is immeasurable.
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