Pierre Cardin, the French designer whose famous name embossed everything from wristwatches to bed-sheets after his iconic Space Age styles shot him into the fashion stratosphere in the 1960s, has died, the French Academy of Fine Arts said on Tuesday. He was 98.
Goods bearing the Cardin name and his fancy cursive signature were sold at some 100,000 outlets worldwide in its hey-day.
That number dwindled dramatically in later years, as his products were increasingly regarded as cheaply made and his clothing — which, decades later, remained virtually unchanged from its 60s-era styles — felt almost laughably dated.
A savvy businessman, Cardin used the fabulous wealth that was the fruit of his empire to snap up top-notch properties in Paris.
The Fine Arts Academy announced his death in a tweet. He had been among its illustrious members since 1992. The academy did not give a cause of death or say where or when he had died.
At a time when other Paris labels were obsessed with flattering the female form, Cardin’s designs cast the wearer as a sort of glorified hanger, to showcase the clothes sharp shapes and graphic patterns. Destined neither for pragmatists nor for wallflowers, his designs were all about making a big entrance — sometimes very literally.
Gowns and bodysuits in fluorescent spandex were fitted with plastic hoops that stood away from the body at the waist, elbows, wrists and knees. Cardin bubble dresses and capes enveloped their wearers in oversized spheres of fabric.
Toques were shaped like flying saucers; bucket hats sheathed models entire heads, with cut out windshields at the eyes.
“Fashion is always ridiculous, seen from before or after. But in the moment, it is marvellous,” Cardin said in a 1970 interview with French television. ‘‘It's all the same to me whether I am doing sleeves for dresses or table legs,’’ a telling quote on his website once read.
Cardin was born on July 7, 1922, in a small town near Venice, Italy, to a modest, working-class family. When he was a child, the family moved to Saint Etienne in central France, where Cardin was schooled and became an apprentice to a tailor at age 14.
Cardin would later embrace his status as a self-made man, saying in the same 1970 interview that going it alone “makes you see life in a much more real way and forces you to take decision and to be courageous. It is much more difficult to enter a dark woods alone than when you already know the way through,” he said.
As his fame and fortune spiked, so did his real estate portfolio. He long lived an austere, almost monastic existence with his sister in a sprawling apartment across from the Elysee presidential palace in Paris.
Beyond clothes, Cardin put his stamp on perfumes, makeup, porcelain, chocolates, a resort in the south of France and even the velvet-walled watering hole Maxims — where he could often be seen at lunch. He once said it would not bother him to have his initials, PC, etched into rolls of toilet paper.
Cardin was in the vanguard of recognizing the importance of Asia to the fashion world, both as a manufacturing hub and for its consumer potential. He was present in Japan starting in the early 60s and in 1979 became the first Western designer to stage a fashion show in China.