“House of Cardin,” a Documentary on the Designer’s Countless Lives

He dressed Naomi Campbell, Sharon Stone, and the Beatles. He designed the interior of a famous American sports car, stepped into Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit, and posed bare-chested on the cover of Time. Pierre Cardin, the all-rounder, the man who was the subject of a remarkable retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum last year, is now the focus of a U.S. documentary, House of Cardin, available on demand in the United States since late August.

In 1971, the couturier bought the venerable Théâtre des Ambassadeurs, a former cabaret in the Champs-Elysées neighborhood. He transformed it into a contemporary culture center, the Espace Pierre Cardin (which was returned to the City of Paris in 2016), and hosted the first French performances by American director Bob Wilson and Detroit rock star Alice Cooper, who shocked the prudish public of the time with his outrageous outfits and the boa constrictor he wore constantly around his neck!

“Banality bores me; I am not someone who accepts things that are already acceptable,” says Cardin in the documentary made in his honor by American directors P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes. At the age of 98, fashion’s most tireless designer is still “part of the action.” In July, he inaugurated the 20th edition of the Lyrical Arts and Theater festival, which he founded in Lacoste, in the château once owned by the Marquis de Sade. He is also currently supervising the restoration of a dairy in Houdan in the Yvelines département, set to house a new culture center!

But where does fashion come into it? In fact, fashion is the cornerstone of the documentary. Viewers are taken through archive footage of interviews and shows at breakneck speed, shifting from one era to the next like a model changing outfits backstage. In one sequence, Cardin gives a tour of his museum in the 4th arrondissement of Paris to a group of student designers, and shows them the 1952 red wool Plissé Soleil coat, his first success on the American market. In another, he describes his fascination for the “lunar era” and presents his Cosmocorps collection with its geometric shapes, launched five years before the Moon landing.

The documentary also features testimonies from celebrities, including Naomi Campbell, Sharon Stone, Vanity Fair journalist Amy Fine Collins, and Yves Saint-Laurent’s biographer Laurence Benaïm. Jean-Paul Gaultier and Philippe Starck recount how Cardin helped kickstart their careers, while American diva Dionne Warwick — who posed in a Cardin dress on the cover of her album Make Way for Dionne Warwick — applauds the designer’s decision to showcase “international” models on the runway during the 1960s. “This diversity was quite refreshing,” she says. “He decided that it was okay to use Japanese models and people who looked like me, with brown skin.” […]

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=> The House of Cardin documentary is available on demand in the United States and will be in cinemas in France on September 23, under the title Pierre Cardin.