PARIS — Gérard Pipart, the designer of Nina Ricci couture for more than 30 years, died on Friday following a long illness.

This story first appeared in the July 1, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Pipart, who was 79, joined Nina Ricci in 1964 at the age of 30 and designed the house’s couture collection until Spain’s Puig bought the brand and dropped the couture line in 1998.

He was only the third couturier in the house’s history after Ricci herself and Jules-François Crahay.

“At the time, Nina Ricci dressed ‘la grande bourgeoisie.’ I was only 30, young and full of new ideas, so it was all pretty different and I had to adjust,” Pipart told WWD in 1995.

Pipart’s couture style was exuberant and feminine, and over the years he counted the queens of Thailand and Norway, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg and Marcela Pérez de Cuéllar among his clients.

“My goal is to make a woman beautiful,” Pipart said in the 1995 interview.

In 1987, he was awarded the Dé d’Or, or Golden Thimble, for best couture collection.

At the time when Puig decided to close down Nina Ricci couture, the workshop still employed 90 seamstresses.

“I’m amazed I stayed so long,” Pipart said on the occasion of his 30th anniversary at the house. “When I arrived everyone was predicting the death of couture, so I was keen to get in for what were meant to be the final few years. And, despite what people like Pierre Bergé and many others predicted, couture has lasted a lot longer than anyone ever thought.”

His death was announced on Saturday by French fashion’s governing body, the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode.

“He was a central figure at a pivotal moment for fashion,” said Federation president Didier Grumbach, who remembered Pipart as a “charming” man.

“He was considered at the time as one of the most talented designers,” he added, explaining that he arrived at Ricci to design couture when the first true ready-to-wear collections began to emerge.

Pipart studied at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and worked with Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Hubert de Givenchy and Marc Bohan at Jean Patou.

“I remember him as a nice boy and a good worker,” de Givenchy reminisced over the telephone. “He was serious and keen to learn.”

Before joining Nina Ricci, Pipart worked for five years at Chloé, the house’s first stylist after founder Gaby Aghion, and gained a reputation there for his avant-garde creations.

“He was extremely inventive and creative, and broke with accepted codes of the time,” Grumbach continued.

His work was featured in the recent Chloé retrospective at the Palais de Tokyo here.

A funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in Olonne-sur-Mer, in the Vendée region on France’s Atlantic coast, where Pipart had been living for several years since he retired from Nina Ricci.