Pierre Cardin even vacationed in the future, or some vision of the future which, even if it’s now in the past, seems like it’s still out there, waiting for us. “The dresses I prefer,” the designer said in 1969, “are those I invent for a life that does not yet exist.” Cardin, who died at 98 this week, transformed fashion with ready-to-wear and a world of licensing, but was always looking forward. What I would have given to have been one of the guests at the 80th birthday party he threw for himself celebrating his then-50-year career in fashion at his Palais Bulles (Bubble Palace) in Théoule-sur-Mer in the south of France, overlooking the Mediterranean. The surreal domed compound was originally built in the 1970s by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag for a French industrialist, Pierre Bernard, who died in 1991. Cardin was the second owner of this kingdom that included an amphitheater, three swimming pools, and ten bedrooms, each designed by a different artist. But it might as well have sprung from Cardin, the mad scientist himself, as it was such a perfect reflection of his Flash Gordon aesthetic that embraced the brave new world of ’60s space-age travel that Cardin captured for the public imagination. He grew a licensing empire that included everything from sunglasses, cars, restaurants, and home furnishings — letting us all, in various ways, participate, too.
Pool party at the Bubble Palace. Photo: Toni Anne Barson Archive/WireImage