A Master Innovator Takes a Bow

The Preservation Society of Newport County’s summer costume and-culture exhibit, “Pierre Cardin: 70 Years of Innovation,” opens on Saturday, May 27 at Rosecliff.


A Master Innovator Takes a Bow

The Preservation Society of Newport County’s summer costume and-culture exhibit, “Pierre Cardin: 70 Years of Innovation,” opens on Saturday, May 27 at Rosecliff. When contemplating the retrospective featuring 42 original pieces transported from the designer’s private collection in Paris to the climate-controlled second floor of a PSNC mansion, one question comes to mind.

Why Newport?

Why stage a retrospective in a town Cardin has never visited, and follow up three weeks later with a runway show, which will feature a gala 95th birthday celebration in his honor, complete with champagne and cake?

It’s totally in keeping with the creative, restless spirit of a master innovator, says Ashley Householder. As curator of the show on this side of the Atlantic, Householder, PSNC associate curator for exhibitions, has worked closely both with Cardin and the curator at the Musée Pierre Cardin in Paris. She says he is “energized by lots of different ideas. He has been around the world at least 20 times. He’s a person up for new experiences.”

It appears that Cardin, who will turn 95 in July, is nothing if not the architect of his brand.

The odyssey that brought the original pieces from the City of Lights to the City by the Sea began last February, when Householder and Laurie Ossman, PSNC director of museum affairs, traveled to Paris to meet Cardin and members of his staff. “He was so charming,” she says. “He was still sketching, and so involved. He has not stepped back at all.”

Householder became a bona fide collaborator on the show. She took lots of pictures, and once back in Newport her curatorial work began. “I had the great good fortune to choose what we wanted,” she said.

Cardin approved of her suggestions. “He was very involved in every decision. That’s how he has always worked.”

The selections date back to 1957 and continue up to a piece from his 2016 spring collection, when the designer was honored in Paris. Included will be his trademark “space age” dresses from the 1960s, unisex jumpsuits designed for the 1972 Olympics, menswear and designs for children. Artwork includes pieces from his private collection, among them works by Belle Epoque caricaturist Georges Goursat, who signed his works SEM, as well as accessories, hats and glass display bottles from fragrance lines.

The exhibit also includes vintage menus, table settings, a table lamp and images of the interior in an homage to Maxim’s, the landmark art nouveau bistro that Cardin famously bought in 1981. “He is very proud as well of Maxim’s,” Householder said.

For something so iconically Parisian, she sensed that to own and maintain it was a duty, if not an honor. “This is his time for stewardship,” she said, before it is passed along to another owner.

“Every decade of his career is represented,” Householder says.

When asked if she has a favorite in the show, she said it is a dress from 1968, one of his kinetic designs, made of green-and-white squares of molded plexiglass, with buttons that appear to move with the garment. “I think it captures the spirit of the [clothes] he was creating,” she said.

Cardin was born in 1922 in Italy into a wealthy family that moved to France in 1924 to escape the rise of Fascism. His father was a successful wine merchant who thought his talented son should study to become an architect. Instead, he became a dress designer.

His career began with Christian Dior in the 1940s. It was a creative liaison that launched the “New Look” in 1946. In 1950, he struck out on his own, and presented his first women’s collection in 1953.

“Then,” said Householder, “the ‘60s happened.”

The influence of the space age became a force to be reckoned with. “He was wise enough to understand the impact,” she said.

When Cardin, as “the father of ready-to-wear,” began to distance himself and his designs from couture, Householder says he was also aware, “sooner than most,” of the growing appeal of mass appeal. “He wanted to be about democratizing fashion,” she said.

If he had a muse, it was mid-20th century engineering and design. “He was influenced by airplanes and architecture. He sees himself more as a sculptor than a designer.”

While no stranger to the United States, when Cardin arrives for the June 17 runway event, it will be his first visit to Newport. Knowing what one knows of this fashion revolutionary who is still sketching and still designing, that may be a good thing. Newport may become yet another muse, as he contemplates moving on to his next big thing.Read more at:http://www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dress-shops-perth | http://www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dress-shops-canberra