By Olga Nedbaeva
PARIS, France—Luxury label Pierre Cardin is set to return to Paris Fashion Week in a bid to breathe new life into the brand, its new boss told AFP, just over a year after the death of its legendary founder.
The famed couturier died in December 2020 at the age of 98, having built a hugely profitable business empire by licensing his name around the world.
He stayed in the spotlight to the very end, with blockbuster shows in Russia, Kazakhstan and even on the Great Wall of China in the last years of his life.
But Cardin stayed away from the official fashion calendar in his last two decades—and that is something his nephew and hand-picked 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 he approached his 80th birthday, he said there were lots of young designers who needed to be part of fashion week and he didn’t want to get in their way.”
But Basilicati-Cardin says it is time to relaunch the brand.
The first step is a special commemorative show dedicated to the label’s founder on January 28 at the end of the haute couture week.
Out of this world
“We want to return to fashion week, at least once a year,” said the new CEO. “We need the publicity.
“My uncle did a lot and the publicity came naturally. But he dedicated the last part of his life to creativity, not to distribution,” he added.
Cardin helped revolutionize fashion in the 1960s and 1970s with bold and futuristic designs that tapped into the excitement around the space age.
Not for nothing is the tribute show being 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 sort of person who travels on spaceships,” said his nephew.
“He was the first—the only who dared to do that alongside Andre Courreges—and was criticized by everyone at the time.”
But from the 1970s, Cardin began licensing his brand name to hundreds of other companies and products, from food mixers to answering machines to—famously—tinned 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 have rather smelled the scent of sardines than of perfume.”
But for some, these licensing deals also reduced the brand’s allure, as its name was plastered across bargain-basement clothing all over the globe.
‘A certain simplicity’
Basilicati-Cardin, an engineer and graphic designer by training, was chosen to take over by his uncle in 2018, having worked alongside him since the 1990s, primarily on accessories.
“He really liked a certain simplicity, the love of the curve. He explained things to me that I was doing instinctively,” Basilicati-Cardin said.
Now CEO, he still designs glasses and picks ideas to be developed in future collections.
“In one design out of 50, I find something new, I jump on it,” he said.
But he recognizes a need to “rejuvenate” the storied label, perhaps with a new group of designers from outside.
Never without forgetting their legendary founder: plans are in place for another major commemoration in July to mark Cardin’s 100th birthday—this time perhaps in Venice.