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Pierre Cardin: Another legend gone in 2020


Pierre Cardin in 2010. Photo: Terentiyeva, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia CommonsAnother legend has left us, this time from the world of fashion... but also a visionary in art and architecture as well. Pierre Cardin, the great couturier, designer and businessman Pierre Cardin died near Paris on 29 December 2020 at the age of 98.From the reporter for our German magazine, RivieraZeit, Rolf Liffers describes the impact his unstoppable man had on the world.

Leaving a landmark

Pierre Cardin's "Palais Bulles" in Théoule-sur-Mer in the Alpes-Maritimes department, which went down in architectural history for its bubble-like design, was a cultural meeting place for a privileged few. 

In 2009, he had bought half the village of Lacoste in Provence to turn it into an art mecca for the jet-set at a cost of millions. To this end, he initially acquired 42 houses and had some of them converted into art galleries and shops. Some of the 415 inhabitants protested against the "hostile takeover" "out of concern for the soul" of the village. Many feared that he would gradually take possession of the whole village and then close it down. When Cardin really wanted something, there was no stopping him. Even close friends attest to a certain obsession when it came to pushing through his ideas.

A real estate agent, meanwhile, reassures us that Cardin doesn't just buy every house that comes on the market in Lacoste. But when he does, it is worth it for the seller. He paid a couple one million euros, although the estimated value of the property was only 300,000 euros.

The main street, Rue Basse, is called "Lacostes Champs-Elysées" because one Cardin house follows the next. Among them are several galleries, the Café de Sade, the Bakery du Marquis, a boutique and a newsagent.

Palais Bulles visit:

Furthermore, several hotels and additional restaurants are planned to create the necessary infrastructure for the visitors of the cultural festival he created. Every summer, Cardin's staff organises concerts, theatre performances and poetry readings.

The Saint-Tropez of culture

"I want to make this village a Saint-Tropez of culture," Cardin confided to the newspaper Le Monde. To which the paper remarked that "Cardin affords houses like others afford a glass of wine". The major investor and patron was certainly not guilty of anything: "I have invested more than 22 million euros here, hired half a dozen companies, created jobs. The French state could never do that." Before him, Lacoste "had no sewage system and no street lighting".

Lacoste is located in the Luberon National Park on a 330-metre hill. Residents and visitors have a fantastic panoramic view of vineyards and lavender fields. The nearest towns are the tourist magnets Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, both a good hour's drive away. The proud centre of the village is Lacoste Castle, which once belonged to the famous Marquis de Sade. When Cardin bought the ruins in 2001, he was hailed as a saviour because the municipality lacked the funds to do so.

Cardin dress from 1968. Photo: Museum at FIT from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia CommonsWith Cardin, who revolutionised fashion and built up a veritable empire over seventy years, France has lost a true visionary. For the designer not only co-founded futuristic fashion but was also the first in his field to design fashion for the people and to market his name worldwide like no other.

Cardin became one of the richest men in France with his fashion design. He bequeathed to posterity a fashion empire of hundreds of factories and licences worldwide. He never made a secret of his wealth. He could afford anything, he once said.

The designer was born in Italy on 2 July 1922 as the son of a French wine merchant. After the end of the Second World War, he went to Paris and started as a fashion illustrator in the Paquin house. Only a short time later he moved to Christian Dior, where he helped create the legendary "New Look" in 1947. Three years later he founded his own haute couture house.

Along with Paco Rabanne and André Courrèges, Cardin was considered the inventor of futuristic fashion. In the early 1960s, he sent his models down the catwalk in astronaut-like suits and helmets.

He continued to design collections into old age. Among his most successful creations were geometrically cut mini dresses with shooting target patterns and skirts with vinyl stripes.

The industry veteran was the first couturier to launch a prêt-à-porter collection - and the first of his guild to lend his name to countless products such as furniture, mineral water, record players and cars.

Cardin was also ahead of his time in other ways: he reached out to the former Soviet Union earlier than anyone else and discovered the Chinese market earlier than anyone else.

- Rolf Liffers