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Pierre Cardin (1922–2020), “Space Age style” fashion designer

by Linnea Crowther

Pierre Cardin was a French fashion designer who pioneered Space Age style in the 1960s, popularizing sleek, geometric designs.

Cardin’s star on the rise

Born July 2, 1922, in Italy, Cardin grew up in central France and began working in fashion as a young teen, apprentice to a clothier. As a young designer, he advanced quickly, working with some of the most famous designers of the first half of the century, including Elsa Schiaparelli (1890—1973) and Christian Dior (1905—1957).

He founded the House of Cardin in 1950, still in his 20s but already making his mark in fashionable Europe. He would soon become an international success with his forward-looking fashions: The bubble dress was a 1950s smash, while the 1960s saw Cardin begin releasing his highly influential Space Age couture. Based on geometric shapes and sleek lines, these designs epitomized ’60s chic. He also began displaying his logo on his clothes in a highly unusual move for the time – but one that foresaw the future. In 1959, he introduced his ready-to-wear line into Parisian department stores in an unprecedented move that initially brought him antagonism but eventually became more common for haute couture designers.


Furniture, cars, houses

In the ’70s, Cardin broadened the scope of his design beyond clothing and into other realms, creating furniture, lamps, kitchen products and even car interiors with his signature geometrics. The AMC Javelin famously offered a trim package featuring colorful upholstery with Cardin-designed stripes, one of the first models to offer such an option. In the same decade, Cardin enlisted architect Antti Lovag to design a house using Cardin’s aesthetic, resulting in the unique Bubble House. Cardin also owned a French castle and a Venetian palazzo, as well as the Maxim’s chain of restaurants and hotels.

Cardin on modern fashion

“One shouldn’t show too much. For me elegance is about concealing. Today they show everything. I don’t want to sound old and boring, but for me the clothing is what counts. The body is like a liquid that takes the shape of the vase. Today it’s all about the body. For me, showing too much of somebody is not at all exciting. It’s not all about sex and the body.” —from a 2014 interview with Alain Elkann

Tributes to Pierre Cardin

Full obituary: The New York Times

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