Man of many firsts, true visionary: Indian fashion community remembers Pierre Cardin

He was also one of the few first international designers who brought their clothing lines to India
Last Updated : 29 December 2020, 17:20 IST
Last Updated : 29 December 2020, 17:20 IST

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The first futurist designer, a thought leader and an empowered person who led radical changes in fashion is how Indian fashion community remembers legendary French designer Pierre Cardin, who died on Tuesday at the age of 98.

An out-and-out pioneer, Cardin was a visionary who made a brave move deemed controversial in the late 1950s when he decided to start licensing products, such as pens, wallets and furniture, using his brand name.

He was also one of the few first international designers who brought their clothing lines to India where he was a popular name in the 1980s and '90s.

Celebrated designer Rina Dhaka said when she started reading fashion magazines as a young girl in the 1980-90s, if there was one global name she knew it was Cardin's, a thought also echoed by FDCI Chairman Sunil Sethi who has fond memories of attending his show in Delhi's Hauz Khas Village in 1994.

Dhaka said post 1990s, one saw Cardin not so much on catwalks for fashion for women or men but more in accessories.

"He became renowned down to the fact that 'I own a Pierre Cardin pen in India or wherever I could be'. He was in many ways a great example of how we as designers can adapt to changing times, bifurcate or diversify and still be able to continue a brand over so many decades," Dhaka told PTI.

Veteran actor-host Simi Garewal said Cardin was always in the "forefront in designing".

Recalling her rendezvous with the iconic designer at the Venice Film Festival premiere of her 1972 film "Siddhartha", the actor said a leading French magazine Paris Match wanted to click her and Cardin together for an 'East meets West' push photo-op.

"I was dressed in a sari. In French, he kept saying I looked beautiful during the photo shoot," Garewal told PTI.

Years later when Cardin came to India, the actor said, when they met she was in a western dress.

"He asked me, 'Where is that sari?' He loved sari so much."

Cardin was an inspiration for couturier Rahul Mishra, who described the fashion icon as a "complete designer" whose work transcends eras.

"He was one of the most renowned designers in both luxury and life. From pens to caps, he was the one who started licensing products using the brand name.

"He was the first modernist designer the world has seen. The designs he created in the 1950s look as if they are from the year 2050. He used all the new-age technology," Mishra told PTI.

When Mishra was studying at the Milan-based Istituto Marangoni, the private Italian school of fashion and design, the designer said one of his faculties used to address Cardin as "Pierre Cardini, because he was originally an Italian.

"It was his father who removed the 'i' in Cardini when they went to Paris in his early days. He was a haute couturier in the 1950s. An undisputed thought leader and disrupter who changed fashion. He was a complete designer - be it clothes, pens, furniture, etc," he added.

Veteran designer Tarun Tahiliani said the first ever fashion show he watched as a young man living in Mumbai was Cardin's and recalled how his wife Sailaja was selected as one of the models for the icon's show.

"That's how I ended up seeing my first ever fashion show of any consequence. And I sketched for a day and night. I then knew this is what I wanted to do," he told PTI.

Tahiliani said he met Cardin around two decades ago and told the designer about how he inspired him.

"I said 'It's all because of you'. Had I not seen the show who knows what my path would have been because at that time there was no real fashion in India, it was a textile industry."

The couturier also said turning to licensing made him "one of the richest designers and perhaps even ruined his name towards the end because it was on everything".

Sethi too had a Cardin anecdote to share - the designer's show in Delhi.

"He did a fashion show in 1994 in Hauz Khas Village and for us it was the event to go to. I remember the excitement of attending the show. Even today, how many international brands have had the courage to come here with their full collection and launch it while they launch their international collections?" Sethi told PTI.

Pierre Cardin defined "aspiration" for his generation, he said, adding that French fashion always held fascination for Indians and Cardin was the one who brought it to the country.

"There can be a debate on whether he should have diluted the brand or not, but the credit of showing other designers how a fashion designer's brand equity can be leveraged, goes to him," Sethi added.

Fashion designer Samant Chauhan said one of Cardin's most important contributions was combining the 'mini' and the 'maxi' skirts of the 1970s.

"In the 1970s, fashion was more exclusive and couturiers in Paris still had a very limited clientele. The whole market is very secretive. At that time, it was brave of him to move from haute couture to ready to wear," Chauhan told PTI.

Designer Amit Aggarwal said Cardin's death is "one of the biggest losses" he has experienced in fashion in the last few years.

"He was the original futurist when it came to creating clothes, the vision he created back in the day is still relevant. It spoke of a far more empowered person, radical changes in fashion. His passing away is a dark day for fashion," Aggarwal told PTI.

Celebrity designer Manish Malhotra called Cardin's death "the end of an era".

"Pierre Cardin's finesse and appeal has revolutionised fashion and style since seven decades, and will continue to do so in many years to come," Malhotra told PTI.

Published 29 December 2020, 17:20 IST

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