Pierre Cardin achieved fame and fortune as a fashion designer. Yet, his most cherished memory had nothing to do with glamour or the catwalk.
“My most beautiful memory is wearing a spacesuit identical to Neil Armstrong’s,” Cardin once said in an interview.
The French-Italian designer and entrepreneur, who died at age 98 on December 29, was a space fanatic. He wore the astronaut gear during a visit to NASA, not long after Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two men to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. It is believed that the suit Cardin wore was Aldrin’s. He is the only civilian to have worn the suit.
Like millions around the world, Cardin followed the mission closely.
"I was on the Champs-Elysees, with thousands of people, waiting for the dream to become reality," Cardin told AFP on the 50th anniversary of the feat in 2019. "When Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon I felt an immense satisfaction. We were all awaiting news and this triumph was greeted with a shriek of joy shared by the thousands of people around me. Nobody believed (it could happen) a few years earlier but I always was sure it would come to pass. It was a great leap forward for humanity.”
Space influenced Cardin’s clothes and lifestyle. His fondness for futuristic designs resulted in him buying the eccentric, space-age mansion named Palais Bulles (Bubble Palace) near Cannes. The vast estate by the Mediterranean sea was originally built for French industrialist Pierre Bernard. When Bernard died in 1991, Cardin bought it as a holiday home.
A cluster of Octopus-like, bubble-shaped buildings with swimming pools and an amphitheatre, Palais Bulles was built over 14 years by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, who despised straight lines. And while it looked like the abode of a James Bond villain, Lovag’s intention was to evoke the caveman era.
Cardin hosted several parties and fashion shows at the palace. In 2017, it was put up for sale for a price of approximately $300 million. Till it gets sold, it can be rented, reportedly for about Rs 25 lakh a day.