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PARIS Three forces in the early days of French ready-to-wear were decorated Tuesday night with Legion of Honor awards by France’s culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand.

“I’ve known him since 1965,” said Pierre Cardin about honoree Paco Rabanne, who was anointed Officer. “He’s a great designer.”

Mitterrand trumpeted Rabanne’s first showing of “12 unwearable dresses,” to chuckles from a crowd that included Kenzo Takada, Rosita Missoni, Emmanuelle Khanh and Chambre Syndicale presidents past and present, Jacques Mouclier and Didier Grumbach, in one of the ministry’s gilded salons in the Palais-Royal.

Rabanne, 76, who started out as an architect, thanked Cardin for encouraging him to move on from plastic and metal jewelry and make clothing out of the stuff. “It was unexpected. Anybody can make pretty dresses,” shrugged Cardin, who just staged a fashion show in Tokyo. “I’m like a gallery. I put on a show whenever I want,” he shrugged.

Marie-Louise Carven-Grog, who set up her couture house in 1944 and was a go-to designer for women of short stature like herself, was named a commander at age 101, with Mitterand mentioning his mother wore Carven designs and praising her “young, seductive and fresh” fashions.

Missoni came out to applaud her friend Claude Brouet, a prominent French fashion editor from Elle and Marie Claire who finished off her career with a stint as artistic director of women’s rtw at Hermès. “She has such an eye and such a style with whatever she does,” Missoni said as she snapped photos of the three honorees lined up on blue velvet chairs.

Brouet, named a Chevalier, said her current interests are mainly outdoors. “After Hermès, I made a garden,” she beamed.

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