Remembering Pierre Cardin With His Best Looks in American ‘Vogue’

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The indefatigable Pierre Cardin, creator of space age and unisex looks, avid businessman, and early proponent of ready-to-wear, has died. He was 98. “I did it my way,” might have been the motto of this always forward-thinking polymath who broke with convention on every front. “What I am now never existed before,” the designer declared in Vogue in 1982.

Born in Italy in 1922, his family, escaping Fascism, relocated to Saint-Étienne, France, when he was just 2 years old. Postwar, Cardin, who had trained with a tailor in Vichy, set out for Paris, where he worked for the houses of Paquin and Schiaparelli, and helped design costumes for Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête.

Offered a place at Christian Dior in 1946, he worked on the history-making New Look collection. Monsieur Dior commissioned Cardin for his personal wardrobe after the young designer left the house. Cardin established his own business in 1950.

A pioneer when it came to ready-to-wear, Cardin offered off-the-rack clothes—for men and women—as early as 1954, selling them in boutiques called, respectively, Adam and Eve. The designer is best remembered for the futuristic work he created in the 1960s. (And Betty Catroux’s black-and-white–striped fur wedding ensemble.)

In Cardin’s work, romance was always aligned with rigor, as is evidenced in the photos William Klein took of the designer’s muse, Hiroko Matsumoto, for Vogue.

Cardin was a masterful tailor who played with the contrast between geometric strictness and voluptuous curves. He had a penchant for asymmetric closures, soft jerseys with precision cuts, sleeveless coats, and tunics worn over tights or bodysuits.

Cardin was the subject of a recent documentary, which revealed his forward-thinking optimism. He was a man of action, telling Vogue: “I’m most happy that I remained in creation, always remaining popular and always continuing to create.”

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