Cardin, born Pietro Cardin, grew up in an upper-class family where his taste for luxurious things developed at an early age. His father, a wealthy French wine merchant, wished him to study architecture, but from childhood, he was interested in dressmaking.
At only 17, Cardin moved to Vichy to become a tailor at a men’s shop. After World War II he joined the Parisian fashion house of Paquin, where he helped design the costumes for Jean Cocteau’s film Beauty and the Beast. Through working on that project, young Cardin got his pass to work at the couture house of Christian Dior.
In 1950, he opened his first clothing store and gradually gained a solid reputation as a men’s suit maker. Amongst his customers were numerous celebrated Parisian socialites, and the ‘Pierre Cardin’ name began to take root in the high-class Parisian society.
In 1959, Cardin released his first ready-to-wear designer collections for women and in 1960 introduced the first ready-to-wear collection for men.
In the mid-1960s his re-introduction of the stark, short tunics and his use of vinyl, helmets, and goggles helped launch the so-called ‘Space Age’ look, which has become synonymous with the style of that era.
Throughout the decades, Cardin has always given preference to geometric shapes and motifs. As a result, his designs were often deemed to ‘ignore the female form’. Nevertheless, he advanced into unisex fashion, sometimes experimental and not always practical.
The widespread success of his menswear line led to the quick expansion of the brand and by 1976 there were six Pierre Cardin boutiques scattered around Paris. His ready-to-wear collections could also be found in department stores all over Europe.