Cardin Made His Bed and Lay in It

“I wash with my own soap… I wear my own perfume, go to bed with my own sheets, have my own food products. I live on me.”

The proudest garment in my closet was once a blazer with the Pierre Cardin label on it. Stealing a trope from the great man, I was merely the water it shaped.

Clothing, he said, was meant “to give the body its shape, the way a glass gives shape to the water poured into it.”

The consummately French Italian-born designer, Pietro Costante Cardin (1922-2020), has shuffled off this mortal runway in his tenth decade.

He earned the title “Napoleon of licensors” from his marketing. Judging by this obituary, added to the outsized gifts and acumen that he parlayed cannily into wealth and fame was a Napoleonic knack for lionizing himself.

“I was born an artiste… but I am a businessman.”
“The dresses I prefer… are those I invent for a life that does not yet exist.”
“If I can put a Maxim’s [restaurant] in Beijing, I can put a Maxim’s on the moon.”
“I don’t play cards, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t like sports… I just work. It’s marvelous. It amuses me.”
“My life is on an intellectual level much higher than that of La Couture.”
“I’m the financier, the banker and the creator… I’ve always done what I wanted because I’ve never had a boss.”

(Ruth La Ferla, “Pierre Cardin, Designer to the Famous and Merchant to the Masses, Dies at 98,” NYTimes, 12-29-20)

High fashion isn’t about clothing per se; it’s about concept and vision embodied by an art whose chief medium is drapery around bodies. Keeping that thought present helps me value the outlandish contributions of the fashion titans.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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