The famous couturier passed away in December 2020 at the age of 98, having built a hugely profitable business empire by licensing his name around the world.
He remained in the spotlight until the very end, with successful shows in Russia, Kazakhstan, and even on the Great Wall of China in the later years of his life.
But Cardin has stayed away from the official fashion calendar for the past two decades – and that’s something his grandson and carefully chosen successor Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin wants to reverse.
“Pierre wanted to be free,” Basilicati-Cardin told AFP in an interview ahead of the latest Paris fashion week, which kicks off on Tuesday.
“As she approached her 80th birthday, she said there were a lot of young designers who needed to attend fashion week and she didn’t want to get in the way.”
But Basilicati-Cardin says it’s time to relaunch the brand.
The first step is a special commemorative show dedicated to the founder of the label on January 28 at the end of the week of haute couture.
– Out of this world – “We want to go back to Fashion Week at least once a year,” said the new CEO. “We need advertising.
“My uncle did a lot and advertising came naturally. But he devoted the latter part of his life to creativity, not distribution,” he added.
Cardin helped revolutionize fashion in the 1960s and 1970s with bold, futuristic designs that tapped into the excitement of the space age.
It is not for nothing that the tribute show is staged at the Air and Space Museum outside Paris.
“We wanted the theme to be outer space to evoke the 1960s, when Pierre Cardin wanted to dress the kind of person who travels in spaceships,” said his grandson.
“He was the first – the only one who dared to do it together with Andre Courreges – and he was criticized by everyone at the time.”
But by the 1970s, Cardin began licensing his brand to hundreds of other companies and products, from food processors to answering machines to – famously – canned sardines.
It was an immensely profitable move, and one that Cardin never regretted, telling the New York Times in 2002, “During the war, I would rather have smelled the sardines than the perfume.”
But for some, these licensing deals have also reduced the brand’s appeal, as its name was posted on cheap clothing around the world.
– ‘A certain simplicity’ – Basilicati-Cardin, engineer and graphic designer, was chosen to take over from his uncle in 2018, after having worked alongside him since the 1990s, mainly on accessories.
“He really liked a certain simplicity, the love for the curve. He explained to me things I was doing instinctively,” said Basilicati-Cardin.
Now CEO, he still designs eyewear and chooses ideas to be developed in future collections.
“In one out of 50 designs, I find something new, I jump on it,” he said.
But he recognizes the need to “rejuvenate” the legendary label, perhaps with a new group of outside designers.
Never without forgetting their legendary founder: another important commemoration is scheduled in July to celebrate Cardin’s 100th birthday, this time perhaps in Venice.