Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies at 98

Pierre Cardin
Pierre Cardin with some of his designs in 1968

Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, best known for his space age designs and geometric shapes that shook up fashion in the 60s and 70s, has died at the age of 98.

France’s Academy of Fine Arts, where Cardin was a member, announced his death today. The cause and exact time of his passing was not disclosed.

Cardin, who was born in Italy in 1922 but moved to France with his parents soon after to escape Benito Mussolini’s regime, was also considered a trailblazer in licensing lending his name to fragrances, homewares, pens and other items before many other designers saw the potential of such a move.

He began his career at the age of 14 and spent time at fashion houses such as Dior, Schiaparelli and Paquin before establishing his own label in 1950. He made headlines in 1954 with his famous “bubble” dress and was inspired by the Space Age creating memorable collections from new-age fabrics such as spandex, Dynel and foil; he even went on to design a space suit for NASA in 1969.

Pierre Cardin
The Bubble Dress in 1954

Cardin was a contemporary of designers such as Paco Rabanne (whose designs have recently found favour again) and Andre Courreges, who were all known for their simple styles and miniskirts which captured the youthful zeitgeist of the 1960s.

Fans of Cardin’s early collections included Rita Hayworth, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Mia Farrow and Jacqueline Kennedy, while The Beatles famously wore his collarless suits.

It was perhaps Cardin’s enthusiasm for licensing that ended up diminishing his influence on fashion and the brand felt over-stretched but nonetheless it was a financially astute move, allowing Cardin to invest in other things in the famous Maxim’s in Paris where he was a regular customer.

Cardin continued to support fashion by mentoring younger designers in his later years and his early designs remain relevant and a constant source of inspiration.