On the occasion of his fashion house’s 60th anniversary, Pierre Cardin has no regrets. “I will have owned it all,” he says, “without it owning me.”
The new retrospective, "Pierre Cardin: 60 Years of Innovation," considers the breadth of the fashion legend’s career. Written by Jean-Pascal Hesse, longtime director of communications for the label, the book features 200 color and black-and-white images.
Recognized as a pioneer from the start, Cardin embraced a dramatically futuristic style early on. His avant-garde, architecturally and geometrically inspired fashions were never for wallflowers, but handsomely rewarded the fashionably bold.
Today, Pierre Cardin is a household name, with licenses in more than 100 countries and a company that employs over 200,000 people internationally. We can, as Assouline’s new collection points out, “wear, eat, drink or live in Cardin: cigarettes, champagne, cosmetics, perfume, chocolate, wallpaper, automobiles, planes—his name is on everything.”
And at 87, Cardin continues to work as he always has, his perfectionist hand still firmly engaged in every facet of his eponymous empire, both as artist and businessman. He is designer, owner and chief executive. This approach to fashion as art and business makes sense given Cardin’s background: Before entering the fashion world, he studied architecture at Saint-Etienne; during World War I, he was trained as an accountant in Vichy. By 24, he had joined Dior, and by 28, he’d opened his own couture house.
Describing his aesthetic evolution, the Italian born, Paris-based fashion designer says simply, “The essentials are the cut and the volume. The shape changes over time.” But looking back on the last 60 years, his contributions seem a bit more complex than that. At the least, it’s impossible to deny Cardin’s one-of-a-kind gift for the dramatic. From his 1954 bubble dress, to the increasingly sharp angles of his 1980s collections, to the 2007 prêt-à-porter fashion show in China’s Gobi desert, Cardin has never lost his sense of flair and has continued to push himself—and his work—forward.
As Laurence Benaïm writes in the book’s foreword, “‘Utopia’ is too abstract a word for Pierre Cardin; he prefers ‘dream.’ Utopia remains a concept, but a dream—a dream can come true.”
"Pierre Cardin: 60 Years of Innovation" is now available at Amazon.