Who is Pierre Cardin? That may seem a curious question given that his name is recognized all over the world. But it is the question that begins the documentary from P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, House of Cardin. The question is answered from a variety of perspectives and people—ranging from other designers, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Guo Pei, to people he dressed, such as Naomi Campbell and Sharon Stone, to musicians and performers, such as Jean-Michel Jarre and Alice Cooper.
The film is less of a biography that an exploration of a brand. Pierre Cardin began his work in the fashion industry in the post-World War II years, and began to become known in the fifties and sixties. He was innovative in his fashion, but also in his marketing. He made both women’s and men’s fashions. He used people of color as models. He went to Japan and to Russia to show his new creations. Most notably, although a part of the high fashion world, he made clothing for everyone. He is credited with democratizing the world of haute couture.
But his brand was much more than clothing. He was something of an artistic polymath. He also created furniture. And he was a lover of the performing arts, creating a theatrical space for plays, film, and music. His name has been licensed into many areas. (In terms of the branding of his name, he reminds me a bit of Donald Trump.) We may at times wonder if he has spread his brand too thin.
Although we see a bit of Cardin’s life, the film stays a bit distant. At times we may get a sense of arrogance, but at other times, he seems as every-man as his fashion. We don’t get a real sense of his passion. But we do hear from those who know him of the passion he has inspired in them, either to create their own expressions, or to see the world in a new light.
At 98, Cardin continues to be involved in many artistic endeavors. There are some ways in which his name will be his legacy, but for some, the visions that he created will live on in their works as well.
House of Cardin is available in theaters, on virtual cinema through local arthouses, and will be available on VOD in mid-September.