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In an exclusive interview, legendary fashion figure Pierre Cardin talks of his 60 years of forward-looking, space age, and quintessentially innovative design.

Contemporary fashion brands, with their recently bold entry into Asian markets and brand extensions into lifestyle design and properties, owe much to the pioneering Pierre Cardin, which celebrates 60 years of fashion design in 2010.

The style is unmistakable – geometric and ultramodern, with sharp angles and bold shapes that inflate the forms of convention. Natural textiles like wool are juxtaposed with futuristic materials like plastics formed into bubbles and patent leather detailing. Phantasmagorical cuts somehow render stunningly elegant wools coats and cocktail dresses. Pierre Cardin is a genius, whose non-traditional approach was well before its time.

Though his approach was like a rocket launching into the 21st century, reflecting the pulse of the rapidly shifting social strata of the 60s and 70s era, Pierre Cardin’s business sense was a direct harbinger of how most fashion brands function today. Beyond perfumes, jewellery and interior design, Pierre Cardin lent its aesthetic to properties such as Palais Bulles in the Côte d’Azur, Espace Pierre Cardin and the legendary Maxim’s night club in Paris, even licensing food products. Cardin also was a pioneer in designing automobile interiors for American Motors and uniforms for Pakistan International Airlines and, from very early on, had a significant presence in Japan and China.

Italian-born, yet a French national who has received innumerable accolades for his contributions, Pierre Cardin is a European renaissance man who even serves currently as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations. Having studied architecture and worked with Jeanne Paquin and Elsa Schiaparelli, he was head of Christian Dior’s atelier in 1947 before launching his own successful brand that, throughout the decades, was able to echo contemporaneous art and social movements, the Zeitgeist.

To celebrate this golden anniversary, Assouline has published a retrospective tome, Pierre Cardin: 60 Years of Creation, that chronicles a visionary – pure and simple.

You are often described as being before your time. Do you agree with that statement?

Yes, I have often been before my time; an avant-garde designer capable of all audacities…my innovations “robes bulles”, “cosmocorps” attest this spirit.

You pioneered the notion of incorporating art, design and architecture in fashion. Do you feel responsible for contemporary collaborations? Which have been your favorite art/architecture/fashion collaborations?

I am first and foremost a creator and I liked all the collaborations. My only influence has been coming from Space, from the Cosmos…Indeed you can definitely find this influence in my fashion work, my furniture, and my design.

Your fashion house is celebrating its 60th birthday. How have you seen fashion change during that time, for better and for worse?

I created my fashion work in 1950…60 years of innovation, a beautiful birthday. I have often anticipated the changes in the fashion world by myself, in particular with a democratisation of Haute Couture. I sparked off ready-to-wear and my fashion is also an X-ray of society. As a pioneer, I wanted as well to generalize products of the world without ever renouncing the strength of my invention…

Pierre Cardin has forever been avant-garde. Who in art, architecture, fashion and design do you now consider to be at the cutting edge?

It’s quite difficult to me to cite one person instead of another. However, I love above all the research…and the one who knows how to draw attention to themselves…. I like very much Jean-Paul Gaultier as a fashion designer. But before him, I used to like the work of Joe Colombo, Maria Pergay, Serge Manzon, and Yonel Lebovici. I also appreciate Jean Nouvel and Norman Foster’s work.

Pierre Cardin was one of the first fashion brands to expand into different fields, with jewelry, interiors, cars and even food branded with its name. Is fashion now all-encompassing?

The desire to develop and to make all my creations accessible drives me to the system of licenses. I have drawn a lot and enjoyed it very much…More than 800 contracts got signed. This production system gives me the opportunity to adapt my concept to the surrounding market and to be in the first position with regards to a record of licenses and sales quantity.

What is your definition of luxury?

I do not like very much this word: “luxury”. The luxury in my mind it’s first of all my liberty, my independence. This is the moment, maybe, when I create my models. I am out of time…My only luxury would be to believe myself immortal!

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