July 20, 2019–January 5, 2020
I noticed there is no mention of Cardin's clothing for John Steed character in the original Avengers series.
Cardin did a great deal of costume and wardrobe work for both film and T.V., so much so that it would be hard to include it all. Our curators chose to focus on some of his collaborations with film actresses in that portion of the show.
However, his menswear for the Avengers is absolutely significant as Patrick Macnee became something of a style icon thanks to Cardin's sharply tailored suits.
Cardin worked on suits for the show for its full run from 1961 to 1969. Cardin's influence can even be seen in co-star Diane Rigg's mod jumpsuits, reminiscent of his own contemporaneous Cosmocorps line.
Yes I know that’s why it is a glaring omission.
It's a keen observation on your part! Not many know about his work on the show, as he often went uncredited. His early menswear was a big part of his career, definitely, and his work on the Avengers is an interesting episode within that career. However, the thesis of the show tries to focus on his "future fashion," meaning his more avant-garde space age work that imagines the world of tomorrow. That being said, that's why we, the ASK team, are here to discuss any supplementary material or deep dives you may be interested in talking about!
I'm at the beginning of the Cardin show. Could you give me some background on him? I’m not too familiar!
Sure! Cardin has been a major force in fashion design since the mid 20th-Century. He was one of the first couturiers to design ready-to-wear garments, which got him temporarily expelled from the couture syndicate (and also made him a pioneer in the field)!!
He is currently 97 years old, still putting out designs. He sketches in the morning and walks to his office in Paris every day.
He also owns 100% of his company, allowing him to do whatever he wants with it! This includes licensing a restaurant (Maxim's ) and a theater, creating his own furniture, designing costumes, or having a fashion show on the Great Wall of China!
He marches to the beat of his own drum. He once said, “I have always worked in my own style, which is different from all others. It was always my intention to be different, because that is the only way to last.”
What material is this dress?
That dress is made of synthetic jersey; jersey refers to the type knit.
Is jersey stretchy?
Yes, it can be very stretchy. It's a very common material especially for women's clothing. A typical t-shirt or pair of leggings are made from a jersey knit.
This dress is a great example of Cardin's love of circles! He said, “I am fascinated by the circle – to me it represents the moon, the bosom, life – and I am irresistibly attracted to it because it is infinite; I associate it with the cosmos. The infinity of space is more inspiring than anything else.”
Did Smith start in figurative and then go abstract?
Leon Polk Smith is predominantly known for his abstract works and cites artists like Piet Mondrian, Constatin Brancusi, and Hans Arp as inspiration. He did, however, receive a traditional art education at Columbia University so we can assume he also made many figurative works at least during that time.
Love the striking silhouette.
So do I! One of the interesting effects of these structural parabolas that Cardin uses is the way that they create an illusion of weightlessness, that the fabric is floating.
The Space Race and space travel have been key inspirations for Cardin throughout his career and these ideas have manifested in his designs in a variety of ways.
You'll notice a few weightless-looking designs in the exhibition as well as, in contrast, some more literal helmet-like headgear as a nod to the real garments necessary for space travel.
I would love to know more!
This photo is from Cardin's first trip to Japan. He said: "When I first arrived, Japan was starting from zero after Hiroshima and WWII. There was no fashion, just the kimono, so I was the only designer, the only reference point for those people who wanted to express themselves in fashion. It was the same in China [Cardin first visited the country in 1978]. They were wearing Mao uniforms or traditional dress. I took my inspiration for the shape of the shoulders on my suits from the pagoda, whereas others just copied the details of the Mao jacket: the collar, the pockets and so forth.”
This trip is also where he met Hiroko Matsumoto, a Japanese student and model, who started participating in his runway shows thereafter. She appeared in more than thirty runway presentations!
There is a vintage photograph of her in a white fox fur coat nearby.
Incredible, thank you!
Tell me more.
You'll notice as you explore this exhibition that Pierre Cardin takes inspiration from a variety of sources, many of which have to do with space and technology.
The cocktail dress on the left in your photo is modeled after an airplane's propeller for example!
Cardin's practices also expanded into actual airplanes when he designed the interiors for Atlantic Aviation’s Westward 1124 aircraft. You'll see a photograph of it later in the exhibition.
The structured parabolas seen in this dress and many others also suggest a sense of weightlessness. The wearer appears to be floating in space. Cardin is a pioneer of Space Age design and his designs are characterized as for the "space tourist."