She was born Cathaline Kaesuk Sur in Seoul, Korea, in 1933. Her married name became Hardwick. She studied music in Korea and Japan before moving to the United States as a teenager in the early 1950's.
She has three children, one daughter who lives in California, one daughter in Paris, and a son Anthony born in 1966. She fell into fashion design by accident. She made bikini swimsuits for her friends and offered one to a store in San Francisco, who ordered 1,000 for immediate delivery.
She opened a boutique in San Francisco, then worked as a freelance designer before moving to New York in 1972 and opening her own salon.
Hardwick designs adventurous clothes which often fuse elements of East and West. Traditional Korean clothing has inspired many of her simple shapes. She is especially noted for her creative handling of silk.
On the left is a black sequinned evening gown, which Cathy Hardwick made in the 1970's and which was recently available at a vintage store.
She worked with the design team of Joan and David in the 1980's. She has also given advice and training to several up-coming designs like Gemma Kahng who was with her from 1979 for several years.
She took a break in the 1980's to concentrate on her family, then formed the Cathy Hardwick Company in 1985, which makes $ 20 million per year.
Tom Ford was Cathy Hardwick's chief designer from 1986 to 1988, when he joined Perry Ellis and later Gucci. The collection of 1987 by Ford, was particularly noted which introduced long denim skirts with slide slits up to the thigh, that were very popular.
Cathy has several homes around the country, but mostly lives in her Park Avenue apartment in New York. She was married to Tom Snowdon, who worked with her to set up her various businesses. They were divorced in 1998.
She lives in Florida for the winter, and in 2002 threw a party to launch the book on Bill Blass which was attended by all the fashion celebrities.