MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The fashion designer Pierre Cardin died today. He was 98 years old. He was known for his vision of the future, both aesthetically and in business, as NPR's Andrew Limbong reports.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Pierre Cardin loved space, says Matthew Yokobosky, senior curator of fashion at the Brooklyn Museum.
MATTHEW YOKOBOSKY: He said to me at one point that when he was a child, he looked up at the sky, and he imagined all the stars were women in evening dresses.
LIMBONG: Yokobosky curated an exhibition in 2019 at the Brooklyn Museum called "Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion."
YOKOBOSKY: But he was also very much aware of the space program that was happening in Russia and the United States. And in the early 1960s, he designed a line of men's suits called Cosmocorps.
LIMBONG: These suits were relaxed and didn't have any collars. The Beatles famously wore them. Cardin also channeled the future by embracing nontraditional materials.
YOKOBOSKY: Vinyl dresses over black leotards with clear plastic helmets.
LIMBONG: Pierre Cardin was born Pietro Cardin in Italy in 1922. By 1946, he was in Paris, working for Christian Dior. It was a learning experience for Cardin, as he told CBS in a 2012 interview.
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PIERRE CARDIN: I know little bit of fashion, but Dior helped me - what is elegant, what is tradition in same time.
LIMBONG: Tradition is something Cardin was used to breaking. By the 1950s, now at the head of his own company, Cardin saw that department stores were copying his work and that of his high-fashion peers.
YOKOBOSKY: So Pierre Cardin in the late '50s said, if people are going to copy my clothes, why don't I do it myself?
LIMBONG: Cardin made a ready-to-wear collection and showed it at a department store. Among his peers, this was a scandalous move, but it turned out to be so successful business-wise, he started licensing his name and brand out to items beyond clothes - kitchenware, furniture, perfumes. His branch stretched beyond borders, too. He forged business ties in China and India before it was popular with European fashion houses to do so. Cardin licensed his name so widely it was hard at times to control counterfeits. He told NPR in 1978 that he'd occasionally be traveling in a country and see his name on something.
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CARDIN: But I can't understand because I am never selling something in this country before.
LIMBONG: Pierre Cardin continued designing until the end of his life. In a recent documentary, "House Of Cardin," a filmmaker asks him, what's the secret to eternal youth?
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CARDIN: Work, work, work.
LIMBONG: Work, work, work.
Andrew Limbong, NPR News.
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