House of Cardin – Film Review

A name, a brand, a legacy – whether you know his name or recognise his iconic logo, you have experienced the impact of Pierre Cardin. A visionary, an artist, and in the eyes of some, a sell-out, Pierre Cardin shaped the world of fashion in a way that nobody had seen before nor will we likely see again. With their documentary House of Cardin, P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes explore the life, the rise and the majesty of this perpetual rule-breaker.

A man at the forefront of fashion and trends, Pierre Cardin is a name uttered with absolute reverence among those embroiled in the world of high fashion and beyond. Huge industry names like Naomi Campbell and Jean Paul Gaultier, icons of music like Dionne Warwick, The Beatles and even Alice Cooper – his name reaches far beyond the realm of what one could imagine. An inventor with a mind unlike any other, Pierre Cardin is the catalyst for fashion-forward trends and styles across the globe. In the words of French designer Philippe Starck, “He’s not of the modern style… He is modern”.

Born near Treviso in northern Italy, Pierre Cardin was first known as Pietro Cardin; the youngest son of wealthy Italian landowners, Pierre’s parents moved him and his 8 siblings to France in 1924 to escape the fascist Moussolini regime and to start anew after losing much of their wealth due to World War I. His teenage years spent in Vichy in the centre of France were coloured with studies in architecture, a brief arrest by Nazi solders during the peak of World War II, and an apprenticeship with a local clothier where he learned the skills that would carry him through his long and fruitful career as a couturier. After the liberation of Paris, Cardin relocated to the capitol in 1945, which he calls the ‘summit of [his] success’. It was from then that he cultivated his image as the industry’s biggest risk taker.

From being the first couturier to create ready-to-wear lines for Parisian boutiques (a move that found him being expelled from the prestigious Chambre Syndicale, though he was later reinstated), to branding private jets and fountain pens in a move that would make current fashion powerhouses Surpreme and Off White salivate with jealousy, Pierre Cardin has at all times been ahead of the curve, setting his own rules to the game and breaking them any time they began to constrict his genius.

“I’m not here to impose but rather to propose” – Pierre Cardin

Through a collection of rare found footage, archival images and present day film reel, Ebersole and Hughes paint a bright picture of this larger-than-life fashion icon. Following every aspect of his career with commentary from close friends and family, employees and collaborators, and the icon himself, Ebersole and Hughes present audiences with a tale of man who not only revolutionised the fashion industry, but genuinely understood the needs of women in the 60s and 70s. Arguably one of the few men in fashion who created for the benefit of his demographic rather than his name, Cardin’s imprint on the fashion industry is punctuated with models of all colours and races as well as clothing that was accessible and playful; loose fits, geometric shapes and bold colours that allowed the female form absolute freedom in movement and expression.

What makes Ebersole and Hughes’ documentary so enjoyable to watch, aside from the absolutely fascinating subject matter, is the way that they’ve executed their exploration with the same spunk and attitude that has made Cardin one of the most beloved names in haute couture. Often accented with a punchy funk soundtrack, curated by James Peter Moffatt, and animations that conjure images of the 1970s in all their colourful and kitschy glory, House of Cardin is an incredibly fun 95 minutes that will make you giggle as often as it’ll have you whispering little exclamations of surprise as it guides you through the life of this incredible man.

House of Cardin is in cinemas now.

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