Venice, Italy – The Pierre Cardin house paid a new tribute to the space-age couturier on July 2, the day he would have turned 100 and in the city that represented his favorite Italian retreat before his death in December 2020 at age 98.
“My uncle didn’t really like receiving birthday wishes but he was thinking of celebrating his 100th birthday with a special event in Paris,” said his great-nephew Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, who took over as general manager of the company. in 2018 and became its President and Artistic Director in 2020.
Staged in front of 300 guests inside the stucco Palazzo Ca’ Bragadin, a lavish estate in the heart of the city owned by the designer for many years, the fashion show featured ‘Cent’, a celebratory collection of original designs and new eco-spirit pieces imagined by the brand’s team of five designers, led by Basilicati-Cardin, an engineer by training.
The venue for the show suited Basilicati-Cardin, reminiscent of how his uncle’s career took off after designing a dozen costumes for Salvador Dalì and his inner circle of friends for Venice’s lavish Bal Beistegui in 1951. creator in Italy is also best illustrated by plays. he staged at Espace Cardin, the Parisian event venue that closed for good in 2016 after nearly five decades but which the house aims to reopen at some point. Over the years, the venue has invited Italian artists including dancers Paolo Bortoluzzi and Carla Fracci and soprano Renata Tebaldi to perform.
A theater man and producer with more than 600 plays to his credit and costume designs for Jean Cocteau’s 1946 classic “Beauty and the Beast”, among others, Cardin would have been proud of Saturday’s staging in which talented pianist Natalia Morozova and violinist Anastasiya Petryshak entertained guests with tunes by Ennio Morricone and Astor Pizzolla as models paraded down the elevated catwalk.
The show opened with a few dozen pieces spanning seven decades, from Cardin’s flagship collection in 1951 to the styles he sketched just months before his death. They included a red dress coat which Basilicati-Cardin says prompted the house’s founder to enter the licensing business at the request of a Texas distributor to produce approximately 200,000 pieces of the item; skirt suits with draped backs, pleated vinyl skirt and bra combos with bubble-shaped Plexiglas inserts.
The new collection is built around key house codes – think hoop skirts, color blocking, cutouts, scalloped hems and space-age inflections, with models twirling and donning old-school poses . Only a few styles, including short scalloped dresses and sand-toned puffy dresses, came across as modern as most of the range had a rather retro-futuristic bent. It paid homage to the founder’s democratic vision of design, rooted in accessibility and practicality rather than elitism.
“He thought sharing was important, there was never any question of fashion requiring more than 700 hours of manual labor,” Basilicati-Cardin noted.
Pieces featured next-generation fabrics, such as recycled polyester; blends of silk and lotus fibers, the latter from Cambodian supplier Samatoa; banana leaf fibers and organic cotton – and sci-fi textiles. A few numbers were made from a lightweight textile made from Kevlar filaments and typically used to protect space satellites from solar heat provided by Thales Alenia Space, with which the house created the Prix Bulles Cardin earlier this year, an annual prize rewarding organizations and individuals working towards “a green economy”.
“The responsible approach we’ve championed over the past year has sparked designers and tailors at home, every time you make the transition there’s no way to go back and you have the feeling part of a bigger project,” said Basilicati-Cardin.
As Venice established the Venice World Capital of Sustainability Foundation this year, he was enthusiastic about showing a collection rich in recycled and unsold fabrics, partly drawn from the house’s archives, apparently filled with hoarded textiles. by the couturier over time.
“As the second most polluting industry, fashion has a responsibility to the planet and the communication of the eco-responsible efforts it makes… All brands are sensitive to the issue, but they need to dig deeper and push our partners to do the same, including suppliers,” said Basilicati-Cardin.
Although Cardin’s creative drive and fame were rooted in the space-age aesthetic he championed in the 1960s, the designer is also known for his insight into the licensing industry.
The house president has spent the last two years reviewing licensing, renewing around 200 contracts but reducing the number of products and categories in a bid to tighten control over brand image, product quality and now the benchmarks for sustainability.
“Cardin’s personality must be exalted at all levels… I must work in tandem [with partners] before the collections reach industrial scale,” observed Basilicati-Cardin, adding that he will embark on a world tour that will begin in Mexico City in October to meet with partners.
“I don’t want to appoint a creative director for the house, because they would feel obliged to imitate Pierre Cardin,” he said, stressing the key role played by the design studio also in dictating the way to follow to licensees.
The house had long been absent from Paris Fashion Week, holding occasional shows at the famed Bubble Palace perched atop a hill just outside Cannes and on the Great Wall of China, among other places. But Basilicati-Cardin has other plans and last January marked the first anniversary of the founder’s death with a performance in front of a replica of an Ariane 5 rocket in Paris.
“I never really understood the reasoning for skipping fashion weeks,” Basilicati-Cardin said. “I think he told me one day that he wanted to make room for new talent, but today with the visibility around these events, I think it’s great to take advantage of their attractiveness, in particular for our licensees around the world who operate the Pierre Cardin banners,” he said. Many of them attended the show in Venice alongside 20 students from the city’s Accademia di Belle Arti art school and applauded enthusiastically.
Annual collections like Cent are sold in the brand’s Paris boutique, its only directly operated banner, which has been temporarily relocated during the renovation of the head office. Finally, Basilicati-Cardin has integrated an e-commerce component into the site, playing on the immersive digital experience by setting up a Palais Cardin space, each virtual floor dedicated to the group’s different product categories and branches of activity.
As business picks up, he did not rule out reopening a factory to produce fashion collections or signing licensing deals to boost the division and also hinted at future projects in the NFT or the virtual fashion arena. “I’m not quite into it yet, but I think it’s an expression of pure creativity and we wouldn’t even need licensees,” he said.
The Paris headquarters are due to reopen by March 2023, housing the workshop and a store, as well as a new 6,450 square foot museum on the first floor which will reopen in May. The new store concept is inspired by the Pyramid table designed by Cardin, says Basilicati-Cardin, adding that he wants the unique design to be reflected in all licensee-operated stores around the world.
The House chairman declined to disclose the group’s revenues for 2021 or the first half of 2022, beyond saying they were up from the previous year and topped 2019 levels, with business being particularly dynamic in countries where domestic purchases of luxury and high-end goods have increased in light of travel bans.