Translated by
Barbara Santamaria
May 16, 2019
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Pierre Cardin, the “oldest couturier”, plans his succession

Translated by
Barbara Santamaria
May 16, 2019

“I am the oldest of the couturiers,” asserts Pierre Cardin, 96, who says he feels young, although he admits he is looking for a successor for the first time and that he relies on three designers from his studio to continue to come up with futuristic designs.

Pierre Cardin - AFP

“As you can see, I am still here,” jokes the designer, his blue eyes shining behind his black-rimmed glasses, dressed with a suit, tie and trainers as he evokes memories, projects and even the “badly managed” yellow vest crisis in an informal conversation with AFP.

“Tired at the moment,” the designer no longer goes to his studio located above the Pierre Cardin shop opposite the Elysee Palace but continues to “always, always, always” draw.

“It's my reason for being, my reality, my drug,” he says. He takes a pencil and with assured lines he draws butterfly sleeves and then a dancer.

Up until now, the designer had evaded all questions regarding the future of his brand, which has been losing momentum in France but is still popular in Asia and the United States. But three months after the death of Karl Lagerfeld, he approved the production of a biopic about his life and admits to thinking about a succession.

“When I die, there will be successors, of course... I have three very good young people. [But] I don’t want them to repeat what I have done,” he says.


However, the designer, whose license universe extends to the world, has not yet had his last word. He is currently preparing a fashion show in May for his licensees in the Bulles Palace, his futuristic residence facing the Bay of Cannes and is preparing to host Mireille Mathieu on July 26 at the Lacoste Festival, which he founded in the south of France .

The Brooklyn Museum in New York will dedicate a retrospective to him this summer, emphasising his avant-garde character and influence beyond fashion. “Everything I touched, succeeded. I was favoured by life,” says the fashion designer at the helm of an empire ranging from fashion to catering, including perfumes, hotels, restaurants and travel, present in 140 countries.

The key to success? “I've always been independent and free, the others are Arnault, Pinault,” he comments, referring to the owners of luxury conglomerates LVMH and Kering. “I’m in my truth, even if I’m wrong. [But] I was not wrong. I believed in Cardin,” he insists.

“You have to be a professional, I learned to make a buttonhole by hand in order to give intelligent orders,” says the former accountant who still supervises the financial accounts of his empire.

Business is not going well for his store and Maxim’s restaurant, located in the area where the "yellow vest" protestors regularly gather to demonstrate. “They have their reasons, I don’t judge them, I understand them. But it would be ridiculous to say that I’m part of the movement, they wouldn’t believe me. It would have been better to give them 150 euros more... Look how much money we lost!,” he says. But he rejects their claim to increase the wealth tax: “If there are no more rich people, there will be even more poor people,” he explains.

Maryse Gaspard, the former model and muse, who now runs the Pierre Cardin company, presented a selection of new designs featuring some of his signature styles to the AFP: two-tone trousers, trapeze dresses, timeless and futuristic black jackets decorated with vinyl details and synthetic crepe dresses for “modern” women who like to travel.

On his desk is a model of a cultural centre he wants to build, spring water from Tuscany in a bottle of his design and a Time magazine from 1974 whose cover is fronted by him. The designer shows photographs of himself with Fidel Castro and Benazir Bhutto, as he leafs through the yellow pages of the Jean Cocteau's ‘Orphée’ that Christian Dior gave him and signed when he left the brand.

“The Bar suit (an iconic Dior garment), it was me who did it,” he says. Cardin doesn’t follow what Dior does anymore. “It’s not like before. Fortunately,” he declares.


But there are two exceptions: Jean-Paul Gaultier, who made his debut at Pierre Cardin, and young fashion designer Jacquemus, whose fashion show he saw in July 2018.

“Jean-Paul Gaultier was 17 years old when he came to me, I launched his career. I believed in him and I still believe in him, he's the only one I've supported a bit,” he says.

“I'm modest in my fashion, he’s quite provocative. It’s his style and it’s a lot,” he adds. “Talent is personality, after the first 10 lines we say that it’s Victor Hugo, that’s Camus, Mozart,” he continues.

Is there anything left to explore in fashion? “Dresses painted on the body. If I was 20 or 30 years old, that’s what I would do,” he says.  He defines elegance in one word: “sobriety"”. When dressing women, such as Jeanne Moreau, Charlotte Rampling or Maïa Plissetskaya, “I tried to bring out their features with simplicity”.

“I have 20 trousers that are the same, same material, same cut. The jackets are also the same, it's my style, except for the sneakers” - he has adopted this sportswear element because it’s “comfortable”.

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