Pierre Cardin: A Celebration of the Fashion Designer’s Life

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Pierre Cardin: A Celebration of the Fashion Designer’s Life
Whether he was designing spacesuits for NASA or showcasing extravagant bubble dresses at his luxury boutique on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Pierre Cardin was celebrated by many Parisians and often regarded as the dictionary definition of futuristic. Even in his 90s he was still opening stores and museums – and he enjoyed such notoriety that at one point he valued his brand at $1 billion. As we approach the one month anniversary of his tragic death, we take a look back at his life, career and, of course, his special relationship with Paris… Life began amid wreckage and ruin but was improved immensely by the bravery of his migrating father. Cardin Senior fled the family’s native Venice after his career crumbled and he lost everything he owned to the ravages of the First World War. Once a successful wine merchant, he found himself surrounded by the fascist dictators who’d aided his demise – and so in 1924, with his wife and 11 children in tow, including two-year-old Pierre, he left home for a fresh start in France. They first settled in Saint-Etienne, a short commute southwest of Lyon, and later in Vichy, where they would endure yet another World War. In his 20s, after a chance encounter with a psychic who predicted worldwide fame and recommended he tried his luck at the Paquin fashion house in Paris, Pierre Cardin ventured to the capital to find his own fortune. Models for Pierre Cardin in 1966. Photo credit © Wikimedia Commons His 1945 move to Paris held special memories for him as the timing marked the end of the war era and the beginning of peace and prosperity. He had suffered on his initial journey there when he was arrested and detained by suspicious Nazis en route, but as he was not of Jewish origin, his imprisonment was short-lived. Before long, the newly free Cardin found himself on rue Royale, eagerly seeking out the fashion house his fortune teller had suggested. He stepped through its doors to be met by the likes of Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais, whom he would join as they created costumes for the film Beauty and the Beast. After working there, he subsequently joined the house of fellow Italian immigrant Elsa Schiaparelli – the arch rival of Coco Chanel – and then became a head tailor at Christian Dior. The only major brand to turn him down was Balenciaga, but that didn’t deter Cardin, who was scathing about big names he believed were superficial. “Anyone can’t draw is backed by money, is given a name…” he once declared. “I made it on talent alone.” By 1950, encouraged by Dior, he was in a position to create his own self-titled brand. He began by designing 30 costumes for a Venetian masquerade ball but soon gravitated from theatre to haute couture fashion, which he sold in his boutique Eve, on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. His “bubble dresses” – not theatrical costumes of the type made notorious by Lady Gaga, but dresses with fitted waists and contrasting flouncy, flared bubble hems – became a hit. Exaggerated baggy pantaloons with 3D circular shapes attached to them would also become one of his high fashion signatures. A 1968 Pierre Cardin Dress. Photo credit © FIT Museum, USA. Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Pierre Cardin signing an executive jet he designed 1978. Photo credit © Wikimedia Commons

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Chloe Govan is an award-winning writer and channel-hopping Francophile with a penchant for Parisian life. After achieving degrees in Psychology and Magazine Journalism and working as a travel editor and columnist, she developed her freelance career, during which she authored 11 books. Whether she is sleeping in a bubble under the stars in the forests around Marseille or horse-back riding with the chateaux of the Loire Valley as a backdrop, her heart can often be found somewhere in France.


  • zarou haesslein
    2021-01-28 06:58:04
    zarou haesslein
    love this article about Cardin..great information...