FASHION legend Pierre Cardin has died at the age of 98 – after wowing catwalks for decades.

The world-famous designer passed away in a hospital in the American Hospital in the west of Paris, his family confirmed today. 

He was working right up until the end, keeping an eye on his boutique in the centre of the French capital. 

Cardin himself said his work was ‘like a drug' adding: ‘The danger of fashion is that you have to keep producing.

"I have a recognisable style that is my signature. The same can’t be said of others!’

Cardin, who cut his teeth working at top couture houses such as Christian Dior, went on to launch his own brand and pioneered the use of licensing in fashion, plastering his label's name on products of all kinds.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, he drew scorn and admiration from fellow fashion designers for his brash business sense.

He 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.

"It's all the same to me whether I am doing sleeves for dresses or table legs," a telling quote on his website once read.

He was born to a low-income family in northern Italy but became a France-based fashion superstar.

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

It said after a lifetime spanning a century he had left France and the world a "great unique artistic heritage" and not only in fashion.

Born into poverty in 1922 near Venice in northern Italy, his family emigrated to France when he was a small child.

"Italian by birth, Pierre Cardin never forgot his origins while bringing unconditional love to France," said his family.

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.

Moving to Paris, he designed the mesmerising 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 also broke new ground commercially, ruffling feathers in the fashion establishment for producing a ready-to-wear collection for the Paris department store Printemps.

His 1964 'Space Age' collection remains a landmark in fashion history with its cut-out dresses, knitted catsuits, tight leather pants, close-fitting helmets and batwing jumpers.

The Beatles famously wore Cardin suits, without lapels and buttons done up to the top, during a photoshoot marking their transition from an R&B act to experimental pop stars.

Vogue magazine heralded his work during this period as a "revolution" in menswear.

His global empire had a strong presence in Japan and also 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.

He was also the first designer to hold a fashion show in Red Square in Moscow in 1991, drawing a crowd of 200,000.

His family praised how he had plunged "early on into the flow of globalisation".

But the much used and franchised Cardin brand later showed signs of wear and, in 2011, he put his fashion label up for sale although it failed to sell.

"We are all proud of his tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life," his family said.

Fashion photographer and former model Nigel Barker paid tribute to Cardin following his death.

He tweeted: "We have lost a legend… Fashion Designer Pierre Cardin who revolutionized the industry with his futuristic designs and think outside of the box business approach has passed away today.

"He was one of the first people I worked for as a model at the beginning of my career. RIP"

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