In Memoriam: A Pierre Cardin Tribute

Pierre Cardin passed away yesterday, December 29, 2020.


One of Cardin's missions in life was to democratize couture. He believed everyone should have access to high fashion, even if one were required to recreate their own. Here are some home sewing patterns Cardin licensed for the home seamstress. He was willing to forge the democratization of high fashion in many ways, including by licensing some of his dress patterns. I’ve compared several of his patterns to ensembles found in his museum, or from vintage magazines:


Fleetway Pattern No. D.4,021 vs. Suit at Pierre Cardin Museum
Fleetway Pattern No. D.4,021 vs. Suit at Pierre Cardin Museum

Bestway #D.3,771 by Pierre Cardin vs. Suit at Pierre Cardin Museum
Bestway #D.3,771 by Pierre Cardin vs. Suit at the Pierre Cardin Museum

Vogue Paris Original #2328 by Cardin vs. Jours de France - Feb 1971
Vogue Paris Original #2328 by Cardin vs. Jours de France Magazine - Feb 1971

McCall's #5101 by Pierre Cardin c.1959 vs. McCall Pattern Book, Fall 1959
McCall's #5101 by Pierre Cardin c.1959 vs. McCall Pattern Book, Fall 1959

After the war, in 1945, the young Italian designer started his career in Paris at the house of Paquin, where he helped create costumes with Jean Cocteau and Christian Bérard for the film, ” La Belle et la Bête,” translated, Beauty and the Beast.

Perhaps it was through his connection with Cocteau, that Cardin was introduced to Schiaparelli, where he briefly worked at the house of Schiaparelli, and where he was probably influenced, later in life, to push the boundaries of design and imagination, and to embrace and reflect the changes of the era with his avant-garde designs.



In 1946, he was hired at Dior to work as a tailor, where he worked on the "New Look" collection, earning the praise from Dior himself, who asserted that,” Cardin was the future of Haute Couture.”


In 1950, Cardin left the house of Dior to start his own couture house, and, by 1952, Pierre Cardin launched his first Haute Couture collection.



The Pierre Cardin museum in Paris hosts a permanent collection of his work, with over 4,000 pieces, documenting his entire career, beginning with the first suit he created (after leaving Dior), to the present age. The museum truly displays the work of a lifetime.

Cardin’s talent upset Chanel, who felt Cardin was her biggest threat, and, by 1968, Chanel fostered a feud with Cardin by scheduling her openings to compete with his. Cardin would change the date of his shows to avoid conflict. Chanel would promptly change hers, while adding several cutting remarks, denigrating the "supposed talents of male designers."



In 1957, Cardin traveled to Japan for the first time, where he temporarily taught students his famous three dimensional cut. Perhaps his time in Japan also influenced the designer to think outside the Eurocentric box, by embracing and incorporating clean, geometric shapes and futuristic design.


In 1960, Cardin pushed the boundaries of fashion again by inviting his muse, Hiroko Matsumoto, to come to Paris. Hiroko became the first Japanese model to work for the couture. He would later say, “she incarnates purity as I have never seen it in anyone.”

It was rumored that Cardin was in a 4-year relationship with his other muse, actress and Chanel model, Jeanne Moreau. They met after the release of her movie, "Jules and Jim," while she was trying on one of his outfits. It was love at first sight.

Jeanne Moreau gladly left Chanel to work with Cardin, making it clear that she was happy to rid herself of her "Chanel uniform." Perhaps the rivalry between Chanel and Cardin ran deeper than just their fashion openings!



Although Jeanne Moreau and Cardin generated surprise and speculation with their love affair, his true long-term business partner, and life partner, was fellow French fashion designer, Andre Oliver, who died of AIDS in 1993. Cardin would later join the fight against AIDS by teaming up with the Nobel Prize recipient, French virologist Dr. Luc Antoine Montagnier, to help raise funds to fight the disease.



Cardin was, and is, known as "the king of licensing." He had a business mind for the expansion of his design empire. He took licensing to another level, with some arguing that his extensive licensing pursuits eroded his brand's credibility and exclusivity.


Was he a cautionary tale in business and marketing, or was he, like his fashion, ahead of his time? In 1959, Cardin got ejected from the Chambre Syndicale for controversially introducing ready-to-wear clothing straight from the couture runways, foreshadowing the prominent couture business model of today. Today, the whole industry has taken Cardin's business model, and is licensing and mass-marketing diverse, attainable products for the masses. Cardin is considered the first to do so, pioneering the merging of the business of couture and ready-to-wear.


Cardin's licensing arrangements knew no bounds. I can't help but show you the Pierre Cardin plane!


Now, I'd like to share a dress I’ve recreated from Cardin’s geometric shaped dress pattern released for the home seamstress:



Made from this pattern:


Vogue Paris Original #2323, Design by Pierre Cardin
Vogue Paris Original #2323, Design by Pierre Cardin

Cardin licensed his fashion designs with McCall’s, Fleetway, Daily Telegraph, Bestway, Woman’s Illustrated, and Condé Nast.


Here are some more of his designs from McCall’s:


McCall’s #4698 pattern Design by Pierre Cardin 1958
McCall’s #4698, c.1958 Design by Pierre Cardin


McCall’s #4696 Sewing Pattern, 1958 Design by Pierre Cardin
McCall’s #4696, c.1958 Design by Pierre Cardin

From Spadea:


Spadea S-362 pattern Design by Pierre Cardin
Spadea S-362, c. 1957 Design by Pierre Cardin

Below is another recreation I made, from View B, with long sleeves:



Made from this Vogue Paris Original pattern from Condé Nast, with his muse, Jeanne Moreau, modeling the dress:

Vogue Paris Original #1200, Design by Pierre Cardin
Vogue Paris Original #1200, Design by Pierre Cardin

Front View of Vogue Paris Original #1200, Cardin

Pierre Cardin was a futurist, designer, businessman, visionary, artist, and humanitarian. While his mind was designing for space, maybe the entire time he was more truly a bright star shining out from earth.


I will leave you with a few contemplative words from his longstanding muse and friend, Jeanne Moreau: "Death is an absolute mystery. We are all vulnerable to it, it's what makes life interesting and suspenseful."


"Death is an absolute mystery. We are all vulnerable to it, it's what makes life interesting and suspenseful."

Pierre Cardin left his mark on earth, the sky, and the history of fashion. He will truly be missed.

Pierre Cardin, 2 July 1922 – 29 December 2020