French couturier Pierre Cardin, hailed for bringing stylish clothes to the masses, died on Tuesday, AFP reported, quoting a statement from his family. He was 98.

“It is a day of great sadness for all our family,” the statement said. “Pierre Cardin is no more.”

Cardin, who was born to a low-income family in northern Italy but became a France-based fashion superstar, died in a hospital in Neuilly in the west of Paris.

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, reported Reuters. Over the years his name has been stamped on razor blades, household goods and even boxer shorts.

Humble beginnings to global fame

Born into poverty in 1922 near Venice in northern Italy, Cardin’s family emigrated to France when he was a child, according to AFP. He grew up in the French industrial town of Saint Etienne and was apprenticed to a tailor in Vichy at the age of 17, already specialising in women’s suits.

After moving to Paris, he designed the sets and costumes for the film Beauty and the Beast with poet, artist and director Jean Cocteau in 1947. After a stint with Christian Dior, he set up his own fashion label in 1950. He quickly established a name as an innovator, creating the now legendary bubble dress in 1954.

He broke new ground commercially, ruffling feathers in the fashion establishment for producing a ready-to-wear collection for the Paris department store Printemps. His global empire had a strong presence in Japan and even signed production deals with Cold War-era Soviet Union in 1978. He also became the first French designer in 1979 to cement links with China.

Cardin was also the first designer to hold a fashion show in Red Square in Moscow in 1991, drawing a crowd of 2 lakh.

Redefining fashion brands

Cardin was distinctly known for dismantling the notion of fahion brands. His detractors accused him of destroying the value of his brand and the notion of luxury in general, reported Reuters.

However, he was largely unaffected by the criticism. 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, according to Reuters.

“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.”