Pierre Cardin was born near Venice in Italy in 1922, as Pietro Cardin. He was the youngest of 11 children and his father was a wine merchant who provided a comfortable life for his family. However, during the First World War, the family was forced to migrate to the south of France to escape poverty.
Pierre Cardin was only two years old. Pierre grew up in France and had dreams of becoming an actor and dancer. The Second World War however ended this dream but also brought another opportunity for him to join the Red Cross and help the military effort. There he studied Accounting, which contributed to sharpening the business skills that would guide him throughout his career in fashion.
His interest in arts and fashion led him to become an apprentice tailor in the French towns of Vichy and Saint Etienne. His apprenticeship years heightened his creative sensitivity and fashion taste and he decided to pursue a full career in fashion design. In 1945, he moved to Paris and joined the famous house of Jeanne Paquin, founded in 1891. He later worked for Elsa Schiaparelli and was also one of the first models of artist Jean Cocteau.
The talent of Pierre Cardin got him employment as the Master Tailor at the house of Christian Dior in 1946. He was in charge of producing the famous Christian Dior's 1947 New Look collection. Pierre Cardin, however, left the house of Christian Dior shortly afterwards; his departure prompted by a police investigation into a leak of Christian Dior's designs. Cardin was called in and questioned and, feeling insulted and humiliated, he left to set up his own design label. He was only 28 years old. The success of his design house was immediate. He showed his first haute-couture collection in 1953 and his first prêt-à-porter collection in 1959. Within a short time, he had a staff of 200 people and his client list included international celebrities such as Rita Hayworth and Argentina's then first lady, Eva Peron. At the height of his fame, he also dressed the famous English music band, The Beatles. He also gained global fame in the 1950s for his 'bubble dress', which led to a style revolution.
Although he trained under Christian Dior who was the couturier of the aristocratic class, Pierre Cardin preferred to lead a world of social and sexual revolutions fuelled by industrial growth and advancement. During the 1960s, Pierre Cardin's work was influenced by an outlook on the future, seen in the materials he used such as jersey, perspex and vinyl; and the styles he adopted such as graphic and geometric shapes and sharp line cuts. His style gained him a prominent leadership position among the French fashion Futurists that included Paco Rabanne and André Courreges. This style also sparked the fashion revival of the 1960s, which continue to influence today's fashion designers.
Pierre Cardin built his fashion business with his personal savings and is one of a handful of fashion designers that never borrowed from banks or investors to develop their businesses. He is known for his strong business principles and financial discipline. These characteristics were also extended to other aspects of his creative work especially the artistic rigour and meticulous attention he paid to his creations. Unlike other fashion designers of the time, Pierre Cardin was not carried away by the fame and fortune that he made in the 1950s and 1960s, when he earned one million French francs
(approximately US$180,000) per fashion show. He reinvested a large proportion of his earnings into his growing business. This financial control led to the rapid growth and expansion of the Pierre Cardin fashion empire.
Today, Pierre Cardin is a multi-millionaire and one of the wealthiest fashion designers and entrepreneurs of all time. He is also one of the wealthiest men in France. He owns several homes including in Paris and Cannes, where he built a Palace with a swimming pool on every level. His riches were largely accumulated from his fashion business dealings and licensing agreements.
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