“Who is Pierre Cardin?” That is the question museum curator Matthew Yokobosky said he wants to answer with Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion, which will continue until 5 January 2020 at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
The exhibit takes visitors back to the designer’s beginnings, with no sign of the more than 850 licensed Cardin products cranked out since the late 1960s.
Those mass market products helped popularise Cardin’s name but they also diluted his identity, so much so that his vast contribution is rarely if ever mentioned, with the notable exception of Jean-Paul Gaultier, who once worked for Cardin.
Rather than focus on the mass-market fashions, Yokobosky concentrated on one-of-a-kind couture pieces from the personal archives of the fashion house, generously opened to him by the 97-year-old creator himself.
At centre stage are the bold, inspired, avant-garde choices of the 1960s, as the museum introduces a generation that knows Cardin mainly through his classic shirts to the radicality of his early days.
“The ‘60s were so innovative for him,” Yokobosky says. “I don’t think he ever slept. He had so many ideas. He didn’t stop, he just kept creating.”
A tailor’s apprentice at the age of 14, Cardin knew how to make the clothes he designed, a rare skill in today’s fashion world but which helped him translate ideas into reality.
“That’s the reason he was able to do new designs,” Yokobosky says, “because he really understood construction.”
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Pierre Cardin is one of the most acclaimed and successful fashion designers and businessmen in France—and the world. A master tailor of haute couture, he risked his career and reputation to launch a ready-to-wear line in 1959. In the process, he democratized fashion, bringing good design to a broader public. Don’t miss this stellar retrospective, on view July 20, 2019–January 5, 2020. #PierreCardinBKM ⠀ ⠀ Archival footage supplied by British Pathé.
Among his most emblematic creations: The high-waisted dress titled ‘Carwash,’ with its vertical cords that swished back and forth when a woman moved; and the dress with a “kinetic back,” reminiscent of a Calder mobile made of wool crepe. “It’s all about movement,” Yokobosky explains.
Cardin also made playful use of new materials, notably vinyl and Cardine — his own invention.
The exhibit plays on Cardin’s fascination with futurism and space exploration. Some tight-fitting outfits are reminiscent of the uniforms worn on TV series Star Trek, with a unisex spirit ahead of their time. His ‘Computer’ coat was inspired by the integrated circuit boards Cardin had seen in IBM computers.
Yokobosky wanted to show both “who Mr Cardin is and how fantastic his designs are.”
The exhibit pays homage to Cardin not just as designer but as creator — someone who found inspiration in everything from rubberised moulds of food from Maxim’s — the famed Paris restaurant he bought in 1981 after frequenting it for years — to Chinese pagodas.
“He thinks really big all the time,” Yokobosky says. “There’s no small imagination.”
The museum aims to take the exhibit to other US cities, then to Asia, where Cardin has long been popular.
Yokobosky hopes the show will end up in France, where Cardin, who hates flying, would himself be able to see it. “It’d be amazing.”