He was 98.
Cardin was the French grand couturier and founder of the world-famous fashion brand, born in Italy in 1922 and residing in Paris since 1945. He was better known for introducing geometric shapes to haute couture and put his name on everything from clothing to furniture to perfume to pens.
Son of a wealthy wine merchant, Cardin was born near Venice on July 2, 1922. He and his family moved from Fascist Italy to France when he was 2.
Cardin was only 14 when he started as a tailor’s apprentice, and at 23, moved to Paris, studying architecture and working with the Paquin fashion house and later with Elsa Schiaparelli. In the French capital, he met the film director Jean Cocteau and helped design masks and costumes for the 1946 film “La Belle et La Bete.”
He got his first stint into the fashion industry with Dior in 1946, where he worked as a pattern cutter on the “new feminine look” post World War II. Four years later, he opened his own fashion house, designing costumes for theater.
In 1953, he presented his first women’s collection, and the following year, he founded his first ladies boutique, Eve, and unveiled the bubble dress.
His fashions were later worn by big names such as Eva Peron, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Mia Farrow, and Jacqueline Kennedy among others.
Cardin, on a tour to Asia in the late 1950s, was credited for breaking out China of its “drab”, “militaristic” Mao Zedong look.
In 1957, he opened another Paris boutique, this time for men and called Adam, and featuring colorful ties and printed shirts. He later made the iconic collarless suits for The Beatles and helped dress such clients as Gregory Peck. Rex Harrison and Mick Jagger.
In 1959, he shocked the fashion world by presenting a ready-to-wear show at a department store, Printemps in Paris. Following the show, he was expelled from the elite Chambre Syndicale, the French association of haute couture designers. He was later reinstated.
With the advent of the US-Russia space race in the late 1950s and ’60s, he launched the “Cosmocorps” collection — over-the-top unisex fashions from out of this world. His Space Age look included helmets, google, tunics, and thigh-high boots.
“My favorite garment is the one I invent for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow,” he said.
Or as he put it in the 2009 interview with AFP, “Fashion and design are not the same. Fashion is what you can wear. Design can be unpleasant and unpopular but it’s creative. So design is where the real value lies.”
By the 1970s, he became a pioneer in branding, putting his name on practically everything, including cars — American Motors Corp’s Cardin AMX Javelin starting in 1971 — perfume, pens, cigarettes, even sardines. He was dubbed a “branding visionary” by The New York Times, which noted in a 2002 piece that some 800 products bearing his name were being sold in more than 140 countries, bringing in $1 billion a year.
In 1981, he bought one of Paris’ best-known names, Maxim’s restaurant, reportedly for more than $20 million.
Cardin’s fascination with space took him to NASA, where he tried on an Apollo 11 space suit in 1971, two years after the first lunar landing. In 2019, 50 years after the first lunar landing, the Brooklyn Museum staged a Cardin retrospective. In the catalog, he was asked about his vision of fashion a half-century into the future, “In 2069, we will all walk on the moon or Mars wearing my ‘Cosmocorps’ ensembles. Women will wear Plexiglas cloche hats and tube clothing. Men will wear elliptical pants and kinetic tunics.”