Pierre Cardin celebrates the 100th birthday of its founder with a fashion show in Venice
The house of Pierre Cardin celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of its founder on Saturday, July 2. The trailblazing couturier, who passed away at the end of 2020, not only became a fashion icon transcending all areas of design and culture, but left a rich legacy behind him. His empire-sized creative legacy is currently undergoing a relaunch adapted to modern times through its extensive licensing network.
After having celebrated a comeback on a high note with a futuristic fashion show at the foot of a rocket, staged at Le Bourget last January, the label headed back to the designer's native Italy. More specifically to Palazzo Ca'Bragadin in Venice, a sophisticated 1000-square-meter space that Cardin himself acquired in 1981. Located just a few minutes away from the Rialto Bridge, the palace that once saw the very Casanova dance in its halls welcomed 300 guests from all over the world, including celebrities, journalists and the firm's own employees.
Among them were also the stars of the evening: around 120 licensees (about half of those that work with the company worldwide) that Pierre Cardin gathered together for the first time after the pandemic. In addition to commemorating the founder's birthday, the aim of the event was to "lay the foundations for a new creative relationship".
Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, the grand-nephew of the couturier and CEO of the company, explained: "The idea of this fashion show is to create a new way of working with our licensees, to share the creative process from the very beginning. We want to be able to inspire them to come up with our ideas afterwards. We have to collaborate hand in hand so that they can create products that reflect the Cardin identity". The brand's business model is based on creating exclusive collections and staging fashion shows in order to federate, inspire and encourage its licensee partners.
The challenge ahead for the heir is no small feat. "As of today, licensees sell more entry-level products, sometimes even nameless ones. They only carry the Cardin label. I want our brand to be recognizable," said Basilicati-Cardin.
"And this is something that sometimes just requires some attention to detail. From a creative point of view, we have a lot of work ahead of us. We haven't visited the factories in 25 years. My uncle couldn't handle it, but he didn't delegate the task either. His success and independence depended on everything revolving around him. Now we have to travel again, catch up and visit our licensees a year and a half before launching our collections. The results are not immediate," he argued, stressing the need to return to the catwalk and into the media spotlight.
The retrospective collection, entitled "Cent", presented a contemporary reinterpretation of the brand's classic codes, a play on volumes, geometric contrasts and space-age ready-to-wear looks for everyday wear made 50% from recycled fabrics. The house's collections, which represent a limited part of the company's turnover, are only on sale at its store in Paris located on rue Saint-Honoré.
"Pierre Cardin always said that copying is never okay unless you're copying yourself. And the maison has quite an extensive heritage," quipped the man in charge of leading a new chapter in the company's history, while trying to stay true to its very essence. To this end, Basilicati-Cardin intends to encourage the use of sustainable, recycled or deadstock fabrics among the collections produced by its licensees and to foster local production "as much as possible".
"No matter how eco-friendly the fabrics are, the products have to be profitable at the end of the day. We must support start-ups that work with new materials at a decent price," pointed out the entrepreneur, insisting on the difficulties he faces when it comes to finding affordable fabrics and convincing licensees to use them. "Thirty years ago, my uncle asked me to launch our own textile collection that all our licensees could work with and source from. I now want to make this a reality with new and sustainable materials," he said, insisting that being competitive means carrying large quantities.
The company's goals in terms of transforming itself extend beyond the textile world. The maison wants to avoid falling into oblivion by making itself known and even seducing a younger audience via the metaverse, with a project that will see the light of day in six months' time.
"My uncle was always interested in innovation. And I find the prospect of expanding into a tech company very appealing. We don't need our licensees to develop virtual reality. And creating wearable NFTs is not expensive. It's a good starting point for attracting a younger audience," Basilicati-Cardin explained, acknowledging the current limitations of producing virtual fashion.
In any case, the company is planning to keep up with modern times without making any radical changes. When faced with the possibility of developing the retail or wholesale business, Basilicati-Cardin stood by his original idea of continuing to work more closely with licensees. His agenda does not include appointing a creative director to bring a fresh vision to the brand.
"We believe in our studio. I don't see why we should change our strategy. It would be wrong to hire a creative director only to force him to make collections solely imitating the style of Pierre Cardin," said the heir. While the viability of the business model or whether its garments will ever again grace the streets has yet to be confirmed, the brand is planning to present its next collection at a fashion show in Paris in March 2023 that will coincide with the reopening of its flagship store after a major renovation.
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