A Letter by Chiara Guidi


Here in my hotel room, in Rue Saint-Honorè, it’s autumn, the Spotify music, the oval bright room on the third floor, with the verses of the lyricist Charles Trenet and, with certain well known Charles Aznavour(1) melodies: everything seems to be so perfectly Parisian, a habitat(2) that allowed me the appropriate condition to be able to write you this letter of mine.

This letter is a letter written at the desk, a letter as Colette(3) used to write, in the hotel room, to uncover the embracing harmony that allows, first, an in-depth reflection and then, allows us to admire our consignee, in an all-around vision.

A method similar to the one which is used for making sculpture, our consignee is, in fact, our precious subject, placed in the crosshairs of our will, of our seeing, and only in this way we can transmit our personal vision: it is a close and direct relationship. This is an epistolary with a single dimension, which often doesn’t know the answer, or more precisely, has the destiny of not receiving it; it is in fact a declaration epistolary.

I believe that You know very well this invisible correspondence, and, parallel between writing and sculpture, this capacity between inner and theoretical learning and its realization, that is that narrative capacity, descriptive, but also strongly interpretative for an authentic, sincere and personal return by the recipient. In fact, You have possessed and practiced this attitude not only in fashion, the world from which You began your creative journey, and, from which your work radiated and from which You have built your universe and your recognizability, in an international(4) way.
In fashion you have been an authentic innovator, a saturnine precursor, a visionary of the foreseeable future, of the future which is already present, similar to this narrated in the futurist literary pages of the Argentine poet and philosopher Macedonio Fernandez(5).
You were a revolutionary of canons, innovator of customs, utopian creator of total living; stylist experimenter, couturier and designer, craftsman, a supporter of the geometric silhouette,

(1) The Aznavourian notes lead me directly to you: “Forgive me if with none of you / I have nothing in common / I am a histrion to whom the scene gives / the right dimension”. Charles Aznavour, The Histrion, 1970.

(2) A habitat that reminds me of the legendary “L’Espace Pierre Cardin”, opened in Paris in the early 1970s, which promoted new artistic talents and included a theater, a restaurant, an art gallery and a studio for the creation of objects and furniture.

(3) Colette, Chambre d’Hôtel, Paris, Les èditions Fayard, 1940.

(4) Today, it would be more correct to write globally, but internationality remains the most appropriate vocabulary for Pierre Cardin.

(5) Future Fashion is the emblematic title of the exhibition dedicated to Pierre Cardin, ongoing until 20 June 2020, at the Brooklyn Museum, curated by Mattew Yokobosky.

Fashion Future_DRY Vol. 14_Letter to Pierre Cardin_Chiara Guidi_Two-tone jersey dresses
Two-tone jersey dresses. Photo Yoshi Takata

Maestro who established the New Look, prophesying unisex. Tireless guardian of the brand as a signature of a possible Cardinian Code(6) that has become a wide, dilated, fantastic fan, who declined into objects, sculptures, furniture, sculptures utilitaires(7), perfumes, porcelains, accessories, places, attitudes. A creator of a costume that reached out, in a synchronous way, both to the market(8) and the wardrobe.

You have been able to exercise your enchanting virtue, always cultivated through vocation, discipline and elegance. His name had echoes, and different meanings, depending on the decades he went through, but Pierre Cardin, the first well-known calligraphic logo: a gentle, flowing signature, then stylized as a small totem, an ornamental half curl, roundish that it included the C inside the P, like a half wave of Magna Graecia, and always represented itself and all its production. You were among the great explorers of the form, a form that has its roots in the architectural, artistic and graphic principles of the great avant-gardes, in Russian Cubofuturism, in Bauhaus. You were the authentic spirit of the twentieth century, and You have fortuitously influenced even these two digital decades of the new Millennium, anticipating that fluidity in solutions of agile convention wear and, keeping open that cosmic and spatial(9) vision that the current Elon Musk’s designs(10) appear to be feasible only, and again, with your creations.

A spirit that runs through time in a temporal oscillation between historical and future past, and, that I found myself, last night in my, deliberately, Midnight in Paris(11) dinner, at Chez Maxim’s(12).

(6) Which we could mark with the twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet, the X, capital letter to better evoke the sound, an ecks, which belongs, internationally, to the idea of the space.

(7) In 1977 he called Sculptures Utilitaires, the “Haute Couture” furniture series, still geometric, but where the shape does not contemplate the function.

(8) The democratization of high fashion to make it fit for the masses was also an innovative principle of Fashion Future.

(9) Pierre Cardin is considered testimonial of the Space-Age, namely, of the period of Contemporary History that began in the mid-1950s, when the space race started. Conventionally, it commenced the 4th October 1957, with the launch of Sputnik by the USSR which opened the great competition with American astronautics, the birth of NASA, with the first Mercury project in 1958, and the Apollo Program that led, consequently, to the conquest of the Moon.

(10) The Starship spaceship, a real super rocket, for example, to bring ordinary travellers from Earth into orbit on either Moon or Mars.

(11) My reference to the homonym film from 2011 by Woody Allen is explicit: in this bistro he recalled the golden splendour of the Belle Époque, when Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, protagonists of an era, met in adventures and, evenings with “Taccuini”, and, in the film, the glorious lost time was idealized. An experience that can still be repeated in the furniture that communicates us, not only the era, but also the memories we have read and known how to evoke.

(12) In 1981, he bought the Maxim’s restaurants, then opening branches in New York, London and, Beijing (1983).

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“Cardine” dress 1968. Courtesy of Archives Pierre Cardin

And, in the iconic Maxim’s water bottle, which they served me, I rediscovered your peculiar geometric and anthropomorphic shape that evokes figures and mannequins that possess the memory of both the Eberhard Schrammen’s Maskottchen and the dancing figures of the Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadisches Ballet(13).

The label was a punctual homage to Leonardo’s centenary, his another tribute to art, recurrences, and also its Italianity: in fact the water bottled by You, is the one that flows in the source of Mount Falterona, it is the water of Calcedonia and it is the same Pierre Cardin who bottles the water of Stia, who declares his research, which is also a declared source of its Italian origin(14).

Dear Maestro, observing this bottle with pure admiration, I travelled à rebours in your diary imagined as a celebratory magazine(15) that consists of hundreds of images that changed the costume, showed the legs of women, for the new measures of the shortened dresses, the vinyl and unconventional fabrics, while the lines like uniforms have left spaces for the belts with geometric and metallic buckles, and wide and rigid masculine shoulders seemed to want to define the jackets of the new everyday heroes(16).

All these elements have legendarily made history because as a true pioneer You have opened ways that all of us still walk and which we will certainly be walking for a long time.
After all, invoking the future as you did, isn’t it a way of pursuing it? And you, of this future, as well as of the first spatial dimension of the Sixties, never lost sight of it.
The EV women’s boutique(17) followed by the ADAM men’s boutique, the first collection designed for children in 1966, the collaborative experience for Printemps department stores (18), the first boutique in Japan (1959), then the arrival in China, and in Vietnam: an East that had the flow of an European space but more extended, has been a place to colonize to affirm “modern” identities with military coats(19), visors, masks to have insect eyes, cupola headdresses, coifs to give the sense of anonymity(20), wing sleeves, ruffles modeled in concentric circles, organic shapes, theatrical gestures in filigree, geometric and rational dresses like certain large tracksuits, and rigid fabrics with extroverted folds, so expressive to appear as surfaces of monochrome analytical paintings.

(13) The bottle is still styled with the Pierre Cardin’s cubist-futuristic syntax, which has become a today’s true classic.

(14) Born in Sant’Andrea di Barbarana, on 2nd July 1922, then naturalized French.

(15) Elisabeth Längle, Pierre Cardin, Christian Brandstätter Edition, Wien 2004.

(16) “Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day”, as David Bowie sang in “Heroes”, 1977.

(17) By the end of the Fifties in 118, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honorè.

(18) Cause of the dispute with the Chambre Syndicale.

(19) 1969, to wear with a photocamera. Dresses already made for a cinematographic wave of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films as Blow-up, The Passenger.

(20) To affirm the mannequin figure.

Fashion Future_DRY Vol. 14_Letter to Pierre Cardin_Chiara Guidi_Satellite lamp designed by Yonel Lebonici for Pierre Cardin
Satellite lamp designed by Yonel Lebonici for Pierre Cardin. Courtesy of Archives Pierre Cardin

I think I should be dismissed by you, thanking you for the portion of the future you have given us and, remembering the evocative power of the word Bubble, which appears to me now to be your true synonym: your first dress, the Bubble Dress is of 1954 and, iconically, was the leader who possessed the centripetal power to make entire collections run around it. Necessarily, associate also the Palais Bulles(21), with its thousand portholes, is inevitable.
You, Maestro, who never allow interviews, who has never published monographies, but has opened the windows onto the unpublished, with the recent film House of Cardin(22), screened before your presence at the Venice Film Festival, in September this year, giving us that open visibility to your Cardinian Code, because the dice You have thrown had no numbers, but the pocket-sized home future: a cosmic future that now coincides with the widely recognized Pierre Cardin style #A Space Odyssey.

Cordially, All the best, All the future

Chiara Guidi

(21) Palais Bulle at Théoule-sur-Mer, designed by the visionary Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, between 1974 and 1985, a wonderful holiday home for Pierre Cardin, now a historic monument. The porthole motif, originated by the world of the navy, is a circular hole and has been applied, for its properties, to airplanes, and then, to spacecrafts.

(22) 97 years narrated in 97 minutes, in an extraordinary and original documentary film, in homage to the Maestro, by the directors P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes who followed “the Master’s footsteps around the world” discovering the complexity of the work done, the unprecedented connections with the world of music, the acquaintances of artists, the jet set, cinema and theater, as well as fashion itself. For the acquaintances, a special column should be written with names, years, in a punctual alphabetical order (Jean Cocteau, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeanne Moreau, for example) with ample notes to reconstruct the mosaic of the long-lived and intense life of Pierre Cardin. House of Cardin will be in Italian cinemas, from March 2020, distributed by Wonder Picture.

Fashion Future_DRY Vol. 14_Letter to Pierre Cardin_Chiara Guidi_Models wearing _Pagoda_ jackets in China, 1979
Models wearing _Pagoda_ jackets in China, 1979. Courtesy of Archives Pierre Cardin