PARIS: French couturier Pierre Cardin, who made his name by selling designer clothes to the masses, and his fortune by being the first to exploit that name as a brand for selling everything from cars to perfume, died on Tuesday aged 98.
In a career spanning more than 60 years, Cardin drew scorn and admiration from fellow fashion designers for his brash business sense. He maintained that he built his business empire without ever asking a bank for a loan.
Cardin was the first designer to sell clothes collections in department stores in the late 1950s, and the first to enter the licensing business for perfumes, accessories and even food – now a major profit driver for many fashion houses.
“It’s all the same to me whether I am doing sleeves for dresses or table legs,” a telling quote on his website once read.
Hard as it may be to imagine decades later, Armani chocolates, Bulgari hotels and Gucci sunglasses are all based on Cardin’s realisation that a fashion brand’s glamour had endless merchandising potential.
Over the years his name has been stamped on razor blades, household goods, and tacky accessories – even cheap boxer shorts.
He once said it would not bother him to have his initials, PC, etched into rolls of toilet paper, and he was also the inspiration for a phallus-like perfume flask.
His detractors accused him of destroying the value of his brand and the notion of luxury in general. But he seemed largely unaffected by criticism.
“I had a sense for marketing my name,” Cardin told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in 2007. “Does money spoil one’s ideas? I don’t dream of money after all, but while I’m dreaming, I’m making money. It’s never been about the money.”
Born near Venice on July 2, 1922, to French parents of Italian descent, Cardin was educated in the not-so-glamorous French city of Saint Etienne.
He went to work for a tailor in nearby Vichy at age 17 and dreamt for a time of becoming an actor, doing some work on the stage as well as modelling and dancing professionally.
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