Pierre Cardin was born in 1922 to French parents. Their son, who was in school at the time, became fascinated simultaneously by costume design and architecture. In 1936 at 14, he was already a clothier's apprentice, learning the basics of fashion design and construction. In 1939 at 17, he left home to work for a tailor in Vichy, where he began making suits for women. During the war, he worked in the Red Cross.
He moved to Paris in 1945. There he studied architecture and worked at the house of Madame Paquin after the war, later leaving it to join Marcelle Chaumont, who was Madame Vionnet’s assistant. Then he worked with Schiaparelli, followed by Jean Cocteau and Christian Bernard. Finally he became head of Christian Dior’s tailleure atelier in 1947, but was denied work at Balenciaga. He spent 3 years with Christain Dior.
He founded his own house in 1950 and began with haute couture in 1953, setting up the Maison de Couture in the rue Richepanse. In 1954 Cardin opened a boutique for women called “Eve".His bubble dresses took the world by storm.
In 1957 a boutique for men "Adam" opened. In this year, Cardin made his first trip to Japan. He was made an honorary professor at Bunka Fukusoi, the Japanese Design college and a Pierre Cardin award was started there, which is awarded to the best student.
In 1959, he was expelled from the Chambre Syndicale for launching a ready-to-wear collection for the Printemps department store as the first couturier in Paris, but was soon reinstated. However, he resigned from the Chambre Syndicale in 1966 and now shows his collections in his own venue, the Espace Cardin (opened 1971) in Paris, formerly the Théatre des Ambassadeurs, near the American Embassy. The Espace Cardin is also used to promote new artistic talents, like theatre ensembles, musicians, etc.
In 1966 all the triplets in Paris were present when Pierre Cardin showed his first children's collection. Pierre Cardin's children's garments were very successful in the US market.
His fellow designer, Andre Oliver, who joined him in 1971 and assumed responsibility for the haute couture collection in 1987, died in 1993.
1978/79 Cardin went to China and set up boutiques, and has been marketing there for 2O years now.
In 1980 the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, presented a Retrospective exhibition of 30 years of Cardin's work. He also inaugurated his new premises on 57th Street, in New York. He was a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret-a-Porter and of the Maison du Haute Couture from 1953 to 1993.
Like many other designers today, Cardin decided in 1994 to show his collection only to a small circle of selected clients and journalists.
Cardin purchased Mawim’s restaurants in 1981 and soon opened branches in New York, London and Beijing (1983). A chain of Maxim’s Hotels are now included in the assets. Cardin has also licensed a wide range of food products under that name.
During the 80's there were many activities. In 1982, the Sorgetsu Kaikan Museum in Tokyo, held a Retrospective of Cardin's work. In 1985 at Milan, Ascot Brun award was given to him for creativity. He also received the Fashion Oscar from the French fashion industry, in Paris in 1985. In 1986, he signed a contract with the USSR for local ready-to-wear. In 1987, he opened a 10,000 square metre showroom in Moscow.
In 1990 Pierre wrote his autobiography entitled "Past, Present and Future" putting down all the interesting parts of his life. This book is a little difficult to find.
1991 He was made Honorary Ambassador to UNESCO. He designed jewellery and a Chernobyl medal which were sold for the benefit of UNESCO. Cardin held a fashion show the same year in Moscow, before 200,000 people. 1992 Pierre Cardin was made a member of the Academie Francaise.
1993 He held his first collection in Ho Chi Minh city and in Hanoi, both in Viet Nam. 1996 At the 26th Olympics in Atlanta, USA, Cardin presented his Evolution collection which is intended for the 16-25 age group. He subsequently showed it also in Paris.
1997 There was a Retrospective exhibition of 50 years of Cardin's work, in Paris.
In 1998 he revealed his plan to build a 133 metre high fluorescent obelisk near the site of the ancient Alexandria lighthouse in Egypt which tumbled into the sea about 600 years ago. He unveiled a model of the obelisk which will be covered in mirrored glass, with 16,500 computer controlled lights inside to cast beams 69 km out to sea. The Egyptian government has approved the plan.
In 2000 Pierre Cardin launched his magazine "Parfum et Senteurs. A celebration is also held of 30 years in the Espace Cardin complex. Cardin held what he called "his last show in America" in February 2002, at the Magic Marketplace in Las Vegas.
In 2002 to celebrate his 80th birthday, Pierre Cardin held a party at his French Riviere mansion. Pierre loves giving parties in his space-age hillside mansion Palais Bulles.His most recent was in May 2003 in celebration of Terminator 3, Rise of the Machines. He entertained Arnold Schwarzenegger and 1500 celebrities and MTV said it was the best party ever. Cardin said "all my life I have had big parties, and I am going to go on having them."
He is fashion's world leader. Up to 200,000 people work throughout the world under the trademark Pierre Cardin. With 900 licences for more than 1,000 products in 140 countries where spread out. His trademark is one of the most instantly recognized.
Pierre Cardin is ready for the 21st century. He has a Haute Couture and Design idea laboratory set up, from which every year about 20,000 sketches, samples, patterns, models or mock-ups are submitted to him. To these, he adds his own brilliant ideas for his collections each year. But he is not planning to retire. In May 2002, he said he will die in harness, working at his fashion. "I love my work" he said.
In early May 2004, Pierre Cardin put his company on the market, hoping to close a million dollar deal. He has an annual turnover of 24 million pounds and his company will sell at around 270 million pounds. He will retain strong ties with the company and says he will continue to design as long as he lives.
He was known for his avant-garde style, to be a space age designer. He prefers geometric shapes and motifs, often ignoring the female form. He advanced into unisex fashions, sometimes experimental, not always practical. He introduced the "bubble dress" in 1954. Most of Cardin's early designs were day suits and coats with raglan sleeves, dresses that foreshadowed the sack line with their front-defined waistlines and Watteau backs. Some suits and dresses had tulip-shaped skirts and boxy waists, brushing jackets with rolled or scarf-tied collars. He also designed coats with draped hemlines, bubble skirts and unstructured chemises. Cardin had perfected immaculate, sleek tailoring and allowed his febrile admiration to catch fire. His clothes had the trappings of science-fiction and space travel. The world gasped at his space age 3-D shift, his astronaut men's look and his "white breasts" dress. He made dresses out of vinyl, hammered metal rings, broaches of carpenters nails, and diamonds. The clothes shrunk in size as the patterns grew. Knitted catsuits, tight leather trousers, close-fitting helmets and batwing jumpsuits were all in his collections.