For someone new to vintage clothing, the variety of styles available is rather staggering. You might lean toward spare, modernist lines and focus on 1960s clothes. Perhaps you've seen enough of fashion history to know Pierre Cardin's influence on this era, and now futurist dresses are on the top of your "get" list. But not every Cardin design looks like the space age gang above, which might be a surprise to the new collector.
In almost every case, a designer's most famous period is not the only period in which he created. Usually that designer first had to climb the ranks of the fashion industry, dutifully adapting the current mode into his own work, while simultaneously glimpsing and then crafting the style of the future. Cardin worked for Paquin, Schiaparelli, and Dior before opening his own house in 1950.
It's very similar to visual artists who develop their technique and talent within the parameters of today, while envisioning a new trend they'll unveil as their career unfolds. They begin to press the envelope as they gain notoriety, trending toward their ultimate goals and/or discovering new paths along the way. In the photograph above, Cardin was called a master of his art, but was still creating bouffant party dresses he's no longer known for.
For some designers, the journey has a twist. They strive to create a certain look, hoping it will strike a common chord as the new look, but then a commissioned design or a whimsical departure from their usual collections will become its own success. Cardin was described as a master in 1958, yet one of his most iconic designs didn't arrive until years later - the Mondrian-inspired color block dress. Thus the designer is marked for history as "the one who created that dress", despite other noteworthy efforts.
It's worth noting, too, that Cardin created his own twist by unveiling the first ready-to-wear collection by a couture house in 1959, just one year after these black & white photographs were taken. The Chambre Syndicale, in charge of Paris couture, was shocked, but Cardin was moving directly into the future, whether the Chambre liked it or not.
And of course we cannot forget societal influence. The Mod, mad world of the 1960s demanded space age clothes for a new age. Cardin was at the top of his game at this moment in fashion history, and his clothes were strikingly different than in years past to reflect the new, young, now feeling.
And again, as the 1970s began, Cardin monopolized on fashion in a new way - licensed products from watches to towels and even frying pans. What a difference a decade makes!
For those collecting Cardin, check out our website for Pierre Cardin finds for both men & women.
"Le Prix Realites de la Haute Couture." Realites, April 1958, 55-62.
Buxbaum, Gerda, ed. Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century. New York: Prestel.
Martin, Richard (1997). The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia. US: Visible Ink Press.