The legacy of Pierre Cardin: How the French designer helped usher in a fashion revolution

With a career spanning seven decades, Cardin's influence on the industry was unsurpassed

Following the news of fabled French designer Pierre Cardin's death aged 98, it is hard to underestimate the impact of his staggering seven-decade career, as well as his influence on the fashion industry that exists today.

With a bold and daring vision, Cardin helped strip away much of the staid formality of the 1950s, paving the way for the fashion revolution of the 1960s. As early as 1958, Cardin was dressing models in then-shocking mini skirts, topped with crash helmets, helping to free women from the petticoats and corsetry that were then the norm. His experimentation with novel materials such as plastics and tinfoil was ground-breaking, disrupting all the supposed fashion rules.

Having begun his career during the golden age of haute couture, Cardin was one of the first designers to understand the importance of making cheaper versions of his clothes accessible to the general public, who could not afford couture. His constant experimentation with new materials helped bring down prices, and widen the appeal of his designs.

Even in his later years, Cardin was still experimenting. Tired of the standard runway diary, instead he followed his own schedule. Like fellow outlier Azzedine Alaia, Cardin presented his collection when and where he wanted.

Turning his back on Paris, instead Cardin opted to stage larger-than-life shows in countries such as Russia and China.

Ever the canny businessman, Cardin realised these were increasingly important markets for the fashion industry, so devoted his energy to courting them. With a keen eye for the theatrical, he staged a show atop the Great Wall in China in 2018, and in the Gobi Desert at Dunhuang in 2007. For the latter, Cardin didn't even bother inviting the western press. Always searching for the unexpected, he even took his shows to a former Russian aircraft carrier, now docked in China.

A visionary and innovator, Cardin helped up-end the entire fashion industry. In today's language he was, quite simply, the original disruptor.