The Legacy of Pierre Cardin

words by: Suraya Kazzuz

Pierre Cardin is perhaps a less recognisable name for many people, but he has made a large impact on fashion during his 98 years on the planet. His recent death has led many people to go back and look at the way in which Cardin has influenced fashion during his long career. 

Cardin’s career started when he worked as a tailor’s apprentice at the age of 17. Following an impressive introduction into the fashion industry, Cardin has been credited as having impacted many fashion trends which took the world by storm.

Cardin was donned a revolutionary by Vogue for his work in menswear. He clearly took a modern approach to the world of fashion and did not conform to typical conventions of style; introducing different shapes and patterns to staple pieces.

Pierre Cardin’s “egg carton” dress, 1968.
© Pierre Cardin Archives

Not only was he innovative in his designs, he also invented new materials and was a founder in his approach to technology. He created a new material named Cardine which could be heat-treated. With this material he created the ‘egg-carton dress’ an interesting and unique design to this day.

He was also, interestingly, one of the only civilians who has been allowed to wear a NASA space suit. This speaks to his influence as a futuristic creator and visionary in his field. 

Pierre Cardin wearing Apollo 11 space suit 1969.
Pierre Cardin wearing Apollo 11 space suit, 1969

His designs have been likened to being a part of the ‘space-age’. He was a pioneer in his area of expertise and his designs project an extremely futuristic and forward-thinking message. His aesthetics have always maintained an otherworldly chromatic essence. He lived his aesthetic approach to life.

Pierre Cardin’s intergalactic designs for worlds undiscovered
Pierre Cardin two-tone jersey dresses, with vinyl waders, 1969. Photography by Yoshi Takata. © Pierre Pelegry

It is clear that Pierre was adamant in his decision to follow the ultra-modern thread he built the foundations of his career upon. Pierre was also influential in his choice of models and muses. Providing diversity in an industry which was lacking at the time, he often modelled his clothes on models such as Hiroko Matsumoto. Hiroko acted as his muse for many years, modelling his intricately designed and shapely clothes. 

Pierre made clear through his designs that definitive shapes were of the highest importance to his aesthetic choices. The contrast between the often circular patterns of his dresses with the square shape of his designs goes to show how intricately Cardin made each of his pieces and designs. 

Pierre Cardin Cosmocorps suits and Porthole dresses 1968.
Pierre Cardin “Cosmocorps” suits and “Porthole” dresses, 1968. Photography by Yoshi Takata. © Pierre Cardin Archives

Cardin has had an effect on the culture and means of fashion unlike any other. His designs are definitively a part of the decades they come from despite the fact that they are also definitively modern. These inherent contradictions in his art and fashion is what make his pieces some of the most interesting to come out of the golden age of fashion. 

Following his death Pierre Cardin’s family made a statement, ‘We are all proud of his tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life’. Cardin has made an impact on fashion which is unmatched to any other. While he may not have as recognisable a name as other designers from his era, he has certainly left a dent in the industry and provided some of the most quintessential fashion designs of the twentieth century which has provided longevity and has influenced much of the fashion we see today in his high-style avant-garde approach to design.