Was Pierre Cardin gay? How fashion legend's affair with actress Jeanne Moreau triggered depression in boyfriend

The oddest aspect of Cardin's personal life was his five-year affair with actress Jeanne Moreau


                            Was Pierre Cardin gay? How fashion legend's affair with actress Jeanne Moreau triggered depression in boyfriend
Pierre Cardin, actress Jeanne Moreau (Getty Images)

One of the most controversial figures in the Parisian fashion world, Pierre Cardin raised eyebrows in more conservative times for being an extreme eccentric. Journalist Richard Morais, who wrote the unauthorized biography of Cardin, 'The Man Who Became a Label', revealed how Cardin was “a flake” with Howard Hughes-like tendencies — from never having "a budget or a business plan”, to dressing like a tramp with frayed collars and cuffs, to talking about himself in third person, sweeping the office floors, or letting his older sister Janine managed his frugal domestic life into her '90s.

But the oddest aspect of Cardin's personal life was his five-year affair with actress Jeanne Moreau, "queen of the French New Wave cinema" who became his model and muse. This was because, during the affair, he also maintained a relationship with his beautiful male assistant, Andre Oliver. Described as a controversy-fomenting 'enfant terrible', Cardin defiantly refused to define his sexuality in public when rumors spread about his twin affairs with Moreau and Oliver. In some ways, the dynamic seemed to reflect the film Moreau became famous for — Truffaut’s 'Jules and Jim', in which Moreau is in the center of a tumultuous ménage à trois between two men, Jules and Jim.

Moreau met Cardin right after the release of 'Jules and Jim'. She was trying on one of his outfits and it was supposedly "love at first sight". Their years together were heavily documented by the press who took pictures of them in exotic locations like Greece and Tahiti or at home in Paris. Described by both as a “true love,” the couple's relationship lasted about five years, though they would never marry. But the duration of Cardin's relationship with Moreau has been described as a "painful interlude" for Andre Oliver.

Oliver was Pierre Cardin's main assistant for more than 40 years, working for him right till the very end when he died in 1993, aged 61. For years, Oliver would step on stage along with Cardin to acknowledge the applause at the end of a show — a rare case of an assistant receiving outright public acknowledgment with the main designer. Cardin also backed Oliver's business venture in the '80s — a men's shop of his own on East 57th Street in Manhattan because Cardin wanted his partner to have a business of his own.

But this public and private partnership came to a screeching halt when Cardin began his affair with Moreau. The love triangle would send Oliver into severe depression. When he told Cardin he was considering suicide, the designer found him a better apartment, gave him a charge account at restaurants and discos and told Oliver to select a valuable painting at the Galleries. When Oliver said that there were three paintings he "must have," Cardin made sure he bought them all for him. By the time Oliver died, he had spent 41 years together with Pierre Cardin.

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