PARIS, December 29 – French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who made his name by selling designer clothing to the masses, and made his fortune by being the first to use the name as a brand to sell everything from cars to perfume, died on Tuesday aged 98 year.
In a career spanning more than 60 years, Cardin has earned the scorn and admiration of fellow fashion designers for his brazen business instincts. He insisted that he built his business empire without ever asking for a loan from a bank.
Cardin was the first designer to sell department stores to clothing in the late 1950s, and the first to enter the licensing business for perfume, accessories and even food – now a major profit driver for many fashion houses.
“It’s all the same to me whether I make a sleeve for a dress or a table leg,” a quote on her website once read.
It’s hard to imagine decades later, Armani chocolates, Bulgari hotels and Gucci sunglasses all based on Cardin’s awareness that the charm of a fashion brand has endless merchandising potential.
Over the years, his name has been stamped on razors, homewares, and tacky accessories – even inexpensive boxer shorts.
She once said it wouldn’t bother her to have her initials, PC, engraved into a toilet paper roll, and she’s also been the inspiration for perfume bottles like the phallus.
His critics accuse him of undermining the value of his brand and the idea of luxury in general. But he seemed unfazed by the criticism.
“I had thoughts of marketing my name,” Cardin told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in 2007. “Does money spoil someone’s ideas? I don’t dream of money at all, but when I am dreaming, I make money. It’s never been about money. “
Born near Venice on July 2, 1922, to French parents of Italian descent, Cardin was educated in the less glamorous city of Saint Etienne in France.
He went to work for a tailor near Vichy at the age of 17 and dreamed for a while being an actor, doing some work on stage as well as modeling and dancing professionally.
When he came to Paris in 1945, he made theatrical masks and costumes for Jean Cocteau’s film, “Beauty and the Beast,” and a year later joined the then unknown Christian Dior.
His first major commercial venture, when he collaborated with the department store Printemps in the late 1950s, led to him being briefly expelled from the French fashion designer union, Chambre Syndicale de la Couture.
Couturiers at the club at that time were prohibited from appearing outside their salons in Paris, let alone in department stores.
She also made her mark outside France long before other fashion multinationals were looking for new markets.
He presented the collection in Communist China in 1979 when it was still largely closed to the outside world. And just two years after the Berlin Wall fell, in 1991, Cardin’s fashion show on Moscow’s Red Square drew 200,000 spectators.
Cardin also expanded into new businesses, buying the famous Paris restaurant Maxim’s in the 1980s and opening replica outlets around the world. He took his investment further by launching Minim’s, a chain of high-end fast food stalls that reproduce the Belle Epoque décor of an exclusive, authentic Parisian restaurant.
Her empire includes perfume, food, industrial design, real estate, entertainment and even fresh flowers.
In keeping with his futuristic design sense, Cardin also owns the Palais des Bulles, or Bubble Palace, both residences and events woven into the cliffs on one of the most exclusive trails on the French riviera.
Not too far away, there is also a castle in the village of Lacoste that once belonged to the Marquis de Sade.
For her latest venture in February this year, she teamed up with a designer who was seven decades younger than her.
Pierre Courtial, 27, unveiled the collection in Cardin’s studio on the chic Rue Saint-Honore Paris, with pieces that echo some of the veteran designer’s geometric aesthetic.
Cardin said he still values originality above all else.
“I’ve always tried to be different, to be myself,” Cardin told Reuters. “Whether people like it or not is not what matters.”
Edited by Sonya Hepinstall and Giles Elgood