Skip to main content
Select Source:

Pierre Cardin

Pierre Cardin

Pierre Cardin (born 1922) came from obscurity but very quickly became one of the top fashion designers in the world and was the trailblazer for the soft and floppy fashion look of the 1950s and 1960s. He developed the first line of clothes for men by a courtier and continually changed and expanded the world of fashion with his creations over the years. He is considered a living legend in the fashion industry.

Pierre Cardin was born at his parents vacation home at San Andrea da Barbara near Venice, Italy on July 7, (some sources say July 2) 1922. In 1926, his parents moved back to their native France where Cardin grew up in the industrial town of St. Etienne in the Department of Loire in southeast France. His parents were wealthy wine merchants who had always hoped their son would become an architect, but by the age of eight Cardin was showing an ability and aptitude for fashion design by designing dresses for the dolls of his neighbor's child. In 1936, Cardin began apprenticing in Vichy, France for a tailor named Manby and would stay on until almost the end of World War II. At Manby's, Cardin learned the art of tailoring suits that would show in the rest his work.

Designs In Paris

Cardin quit Manby's with the war almost over and got a job with the French Red Cross. This job brought him to Paris in late 1944. The 17-year-old Cardin stayed in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, and began working for French fashion designer Paquin. While working for Paquin, Cardin met many French intellectuals and heads of society. Using these connections, Cardin began designing and making the elaborate costumes for theatrical presentations and motion pictures.

In 1946, Cardin's work could be seen in French film director Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. Cocteau was very impressed with the young Cardin and introduced him to designer Christian Dior. Dior was an internationally recognized fashion designer preparing to release his latest House of Dior collection. Cardin was soon working for the Dior house and became one of the "team of thirteen" that would design so much of Dior's line over the next years and become associated with fashions post-war "New Look." While at Dior's, Cardin designed his famous and much publicized "Bar" line that featured tight jackets and long black skirts. He soon came to the notice of fashion observers and buyers as the natural successor to Dior.

House of Cardin

In 1949, Cardin left the House of Dior and in 1950, with the help of Marcel Escoffier, struck out on his own and became a costume designer in an attic shop where he would design many costumes for the French capital city's numerous balls and create his own line of suits for a clientele that would continue to expand. His work was widely seen and loved and he designed costumes for many other French designers, including Dior. He was widely believed to be the best suit designer in Paris and by 1953, Cardin had purchased the entire building on Rue Riche Panse where he had started barely three years earlier.

In 1953, he moved his operations into a six-story eighteenth-century mansion on the very fashionable Faubourg Saint-Honore and established the House of Cardin. As part of the purchase agreement, Cardin was obliged to continue a conservative men's shop that had occupied the building's ground floor. Unwilling to associate with traditional men's shirts and ties, Cardin divided his elegant house into two separate boutiques in 1954: one was called "Adam" and the other "Eve." He then set about designing avant-garde ties, sweaters and suit jackets that became enormously popular in Europe.

In 1957, Cardin was still regarded as a suit designer and costume maker. He wanted to break out of this mold into the world of total fashion design. To do this, Cardin presented his first full fashion collection of over 120 styles in the summer of 1957 in Paris. The show was an immediate success and Cardin soon became a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture (Couture Employers' Federation) as one of the best designers in France. His show in 1958 proved that he was not a one-hit wonder and he solidified his reputation in the fashion world.

Shows America His Designs

Throughout the 1960s Cardin continues to design clothes for both men and women that became increasingly fanciful and replete with bright colors. But, knowing that some of his customers would not wear many of the avantgarde creations that he was producing, he soon began designing a separate and more traditional lines for a department store in Paris. In 1961, he was allowed to distribute these lines himself outside of Paris. His designs of ready-to-wear fashions that were semi-fitted became increasingly popular throughout Europe and he decided to travel to the United States to show his fashions.

In 1966, Cardin traveled to New York City to show his women's fashions to American customers and designers and upon arriving at the airport in New York, he saw the bright colors of the automobiles in the parking lot. He later remarked to an interviewer that: "It confirms my instinct that color-lots of it-is the most essential thing in today's world." His designs for women were and immediate success and would lead him to open a store dedicated to these fashions in the city. He also launched a line of children's clothes which became almost as popular as his designs for adults. For these and other designs, he was awarded the Golden Spinning Wheel Award by the town of Krefeld, Germany in 1966.

Following his successes in America, Cardin traveled to Japan with the same success. His fashions were highly popular and their easy fit and bright colors became popular with Japanese women. Cardin liked the more traditional lines of Japanese clothing and their influence would continue to make an impression on him throughout the years. Their influence would be seen in many of his later creations as models often wear Japanese hairpieces. He has returned to Japan several times, once at the invitation of the Japanese government.

Highly Decorated Designer

By the 1970s, Cardin was regarded among one of the top fashion designers in the world and was awarded many times for his designs. In 1973, Cardin received the Basilica Palladiana Award for the most successful Venetian that year. In 1974, Cardin was awarded the EUR Award, which is the equivalent of an Italian Academy Award, for his varied and successful enterprises in the world of entertainment. In 1977, Cardin received the Golden Thimble of French Haute-Couture Award, made by Cartier, as designing the most creative collection of the season. He would go on to win this award two more times, once in 1979 and again in 1982. It was also in 1977 that he purchased the Maxim's chain of stores and turned them into a unique line of boutiques to sell his designs.

In 1980, Cardin celebrated 30 years in the industry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and opened a new office building in New York City to handle his growing American enterprises. In 1985, Cardin was awarded the Fashion Oscar at the Paris Opera and later, was named as a Commander of the Order of Merit by the President of France. In 1988 he was awarded the Grand Order of Merit by the Italian Republic and, in 1991, was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor in France. It was also in 1991 that he was promoted to an officer in the Legion of Honor in France and received the Gold and Silver Star of the Japanese Sacred Treasure, that nations highest honor. In 1992, Cardin accepted a seat in the French Academy of Fine Arts as the nations highest-ranking fashion designer.


To commemorate the XXVI Olympic Games being held in Atlanta, Georgia, Cardin presented a fashion show starring his new Sportif designs. The Sportif line of clothes for men and women was a tremendous success and spawned a line of Sportif fragrance for men. later that year, Cardin put on an exhibition by painter Daniel You called Les Dieux de Olympe.

In 1996, Cardin was awarded the France-Italie Prize by the Italian chamber of commerce in France. Cardin was also asked by the Chinese government to design uniforms for it's public servants in 1996. Soon the People's Liberation Army as well as railway, airline and post office workers were sporting Cardin designs at their job. In January of 1997, Cardin was decorated as a Commander of the Legion of Honor in France, that nations highest honor.

Cardin lives and works in Paris, constantly designing and innovating his many lines of clothing, footwear, perfume and hats. His designs and his commercial success have made him one of the living legends among French fashion designers.

Further Reading

Contemporary Designers, St. James Press, 1997.

Contemporary Fashion, St. James Press, 1995.

Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1996.

Daily News Record, June 5, 1996.

Women's Wear Daily, January 7, 1994; February 24, 1995; October 27, 1997.

"Cardin, Pierre," A & E Biography Website, (March 18, 1998).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pierre Cardin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 16 Jan. 2018 <>.

"Pierre Cardin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (January 16, 2018).

"Pierre Cardin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved January 16, 2018 from

Cardin, Pierre

CARDIN, Pierre

French designer

Born: Son of French parents, born in San Andrea da Barbara, Italy, 2 July 1922. Education: Studied architecture, Saint-Etienne, France. Military: Served in the Red Cross, World War II. Career: Worked as a bookkeeper and tailor's cutter, Vichy, 1936-40; Apprentice, Manby men's tailor, Vichy, 1939; design assistant, working for the Madame Paquin and Elsa Schiaparelli fashion houses, Paris, 1945-46; head of workrooms, Christian Dior fashion house, Paris, 1946-50, began costume designing for films, from 1946; helping to design "New Look" in 1947; founder/director and chief designer, Pierre Cardin fashion house, Paris, from 1950, presented first collection, 1951; opened up market in Japan, 1958; first ready-to-wear collection introduced, 1959; marketed own fabric, Cardine, 1968; children's collection introduced, 1969; created Espace Cardin, 1970; special Atlanta showing, pre-Olympic Games, 1996; launched Orphee, 1998; new cultural center named for Cardin, Saint-Ouen, France, 2000; decided to sell and sought buyer for firm. Exhibitions: Pierre Cardin: Past, Present and Future, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, October-January 1990-91. Awards: Sunday Times International Fashion award (London), 1963; Dé d'Or award, 1977, 1979, 1982; named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, 1983; Fashion Oscar, Paris, 1985; Foundation for Garment and Apparel Advancement award, Tokyo, 1988; named Grand Officer, Order of Merit, Italy, 1988; named Honorary Ambassador to UNESCO, 1991. Address: 82 rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France. Website:




Picken, Mary Brooks, and Dora L. Miller, Dressmakers of France, New York, 1956.

Bender, Marylin, The Beautiful People, New York, 1967.

Lyman, Ruth, ed., Couture: An Illustrated History of the Great Paris Designers and Their Creations, New York, 1972.

Carter, Ernestine, Magic Names of Fashion, London, 1980.

Pierre Cardin [exhibition catalogue], Tokyo, 1982.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, New York, 1985.

Guillen, Pierre-Yves, and Jacqueline Claude, The Golden Thimble: French Haute Couture, Paris, 1990.

Mendes, Valerie, Pierre Cardin: Past, Present, Future, London, 1990, 1991.

Morais, Richard, Pierre Cardin: The Man Who Became a Label, London, 1991.


Parinaud, A., "Cardin Interviewed," in Arts (Paris), 11 September 1981.

Corbett, Patricia, "All About Cardin," in Connoisseur (London), January 1986.

Beurdley, Laurence, "Pierre Cardin fête ses quarante ans de création," in L'Officiel (Paris), May 1990.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, "Pierre Cardin," in Vogue, September 1990.

Watt, Judith, "The World According to Pierre Cardin," in The Guardian (London), 24 September 1990.

Etherington-Smith, Meredith, "Pierre Pressure," in Correpondent Magazine (London), 30 September 1990.

Bowles, Hamish, "Pierre the Great," in Harpers & Queen (London), October 1990.

McDowell, Colin, "The Pierre Show," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 6 October 1990.

Rambali, Paul, "Pierre Cardin," in Arena (London), November 1990.

Niland, Seta, "Cardin Seeks to Widen Profile," in Fashion Weekly (London), 6 June 1991.

Pogoda, Dianne M., "Cardin Collection: Coming to America," in Women's Wear Daily, 24 March 1992.

"Pierre Cardin Shows Collection in Atlanta," in Women's Wear Daily, 16 July 1996.

Raper, Sarah, "Cardin Looks to Future of Firm," in Women's Wear Daily, 17 March 1999.

Menkes, Suzy, "Fifty Years a Futurist," in the International Herald Tribune, 18 April 2000.

"Pierre Cardin Denies Reports (to Split Up Business)," in Women's Wear Daily, 5 December 2000.

* * *

The shrewd entrepreneurial skills displayed by Pierre Cardin throughout his career have made him one of the world's wealthiest fashion designers and a household name. A global phenomenon, he was the first designer to open up markets in Japan in 1958, China in 1978, and more recently Russia and Romania, applying the Cardin name to hundreds of products, from ties and alarm clocks to linens and frying pans.

Cardin was the first designer to understand the potential of the business of fashion. His move into ready-to-wear in 1959 scandalized the Chambre Syndicale, the monitoring body of haute couture in Paris, and he was expelled from its ranks for what was essentially an attempt to make designer clothes more accessible, and also displaying an astute sense of where the real money to be made in fashion lay.

From his earliest work for the House of Dior up to the 1950s, Cardin displayed an interest in the sculptural qualities of cut and construction that are still his trademarks in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Cardin produces garments of a hard-edged minimalism, backed up by exquisite tailoring he manipulates to produce sparse, geometric garments offset by collars and bizarre accessories (such as the vinyl torso decoration he introduced in 1968). His designs resist the rounded curves of the traditional female body, aided by his use of materials such as heavyweight wool and jersey rib, creating clothing that stands away from the body thereby produces its own structural outline. From the balloon dress of 1959 that delineated the body only at the pull of a drawstring at the hem, through the geometrically blocked shifts of the 1960s to his series of hooped dresses in the 1980s, Cardin obliquely describes the underlying form of the body, creating planes that intersect with, yet somehow remain disconnected from, the body itself.

Cardin's embrace of science and technology, together with the notion of progress was expressed in his 1964 Space Age Collection, which featured white knitted catsuits, tabards worn over leggings, tubular dresses, and his growing interest in manmade fibres. He created his own fabric, Cardine, in 1968, a bonded, uncrushable fiber incorporating raised geometric patterns.

Cardin's curiously asexual designs for women in the 1960s remained so even when making direct reference to the breast by the use of cones, outlines, cutouts, and molding. Similarly, the exposure of the legs afforded by his minis was desexed by the models wearing thick opaque or patterned tights and thigh-high boots. Experiments with the application of paper cutout techniques to fabric with which Cardin was preoccupied in the 1960s were replaced in the 1970s by more fluid materials such as single angora jersey and the techniques of sunray and accordion pleating. A spiraling rather than geometric line began to be more noticeable and Cardin became renowned for his frothy evening dresses of layered, printed chiffon while continuing his experimentation with a series of unusual sleevehead designs.

Cardin was the first postwar designer to challenge London's Savile Row in the production of menswear. The high buttoned collarless jackets worn by the Beatles became de rigueur for the fashionable man in the 1960s and provided a relaxed yet elegant look when combined with a turtleneck sweater. Cardin, by paring away collars and relinquishing pockets, broke with tradition to create a new look for men realizing that the male suit, once a bastion of tradition, could be high fashion too.

Although merchandising and licensing his name may have overshadowed his influence as a fashion designer in recent years, Cardin's inventiveness and technical flair have often been underestimated. In a speech to American College students in Atlanta in July 1996, he said, "I may design everything from chairs to chocolate, but fashion is still my first love. You may do something classic, something beautiful, but that is just good taste. True talent has a bit of shock element to it; I did black body stockings 30 years ago, and everyone thought they were ugly. Now, they have become classic."

Nearing the end of the year 2000, Cardin sought a buyer for his fashion empire. He rejected overtures from French luxury giant LVMH, as well as the Gucci Group, holding out for someone he believed would not only maintain the brand's integrity but would protect his many longtime employees. "I'm not getting any younger," he told Women's Wear Daily (5 December 2000). "I don't have any heirs and I want to assure my company will continue to exist in the future. I don't need to sell; I still get up and work every day. But if I want to insure my employees' job security, I have to start planning for the future."

Caroline Cox;

updated by Sydonie Benét

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cardin, Pierre." Contemporary Fashion. . 16 Jan. 2018 <>.

"Cardin, Pierre." Contemporary Fashion. . (January 16, 2018).

"Cardin, Pierre." Contemporary Fashion. . Retrieved January 16, 2018 from

Cardin, Pierre

Pierre Cardin (pyĕr kärdăN´), 1922–, French fashion designer. He spent most of his early years working in Paris for such firms as Schiaparelli and Dior. He designed the costumes for Jean Cocteau's film Beauty and the Beast (1946). At first known as a designer of expensive clothing, he produced his first ready-to-wear line in the early 1960s. He is well known for his early astronaut suits, metal body jewelry, and futuristic look. His clothing is dramatic, bold, and often irregular in cut. His label appears on products as diverse as wines, bicycles, and toiletries. In 1979 he organized a trade agreement with the People's Republic of China to produce Pierre Cardin clothes. In 1991 he was made an honorary ambassador of UNESCO.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cardin, Pierre." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 16 Jan. 2018 <>.

"Cardin, Pierre." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (January 16, 2018).

"Cardin, Pierre." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved January 16, 2018 from