National Post (National Edition)
Designer transformed fashion in the 1960s
A perennial trendsetter, French couturier Pierre Cardin, who died Tuesday at age 98, radically transformed men's and women's fashion in the 1960s.
His family said he died at a Paris hospital. The cause was not disclosed.
Cardin started his own fashion house in 1950 after apprenticing under Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli. A decade later, he rose to fame by daringly blurring the lines of gender-specific fashion.
He introduced men to the Edwardian silhouette — long, elegant jackets with wide lapels and brass buttons paired with bold shirts and ties — while revolutionizing womenswear with geometrically abstract dresses that ignored the feminine figure.
The “Cardin look” became hugely popular when the Beatles wore matching versions of the Edwardian suits.
Also popular was his Nehru jacket, a hip-length coat with a mandarin collar.
His designs were often rebukes of trends he disapproved of. The maxi dress was Cardin's 1970 response to the miniskirt.
Ultimately, he balanced nonconformity — he pushed for men to wear neck scarves and turtlenecks — with classic tradition.
In 1959, Cardin introduced ready-to-wear clothing straight from the runway, which got him ejected from French couture's governing body.
Pietro Cardini was born July 7, 1922, near Venice. His parents moved to France in 1924.
After the Second World War, Cardin took a job with couturier Jeanne Paquin. There, he helped design costumes for Jean Cocteau's film Le Belle et la Bette (Beauty and the Beast).
It was at Dior that Cardin perfected his tailoring skills — he was known as the best suitmaker in the industry — before venturing out on his own in 1950.
Cardin launched his first couture collection in 1953 and opened his first boutiques, Eve and Adam.
His next focus was on the lifestyle surrounding fashion.
In 1971, he transformed a Paris nightclub into L'Espace Cardin, a complex that included a restaurant, theatre, concert hall, art gallery and several meeting rooms. He then bought and expanded Maxim's.
He also became known for hosting lavish galas and socializing with celebrities.
Cardin was appointed an honorary ambassador for UNESCO.