Pierre Cardin active on multiple fronts, spearheaded by Rodrigo Basilicati
The manifold business activities of Pierre Cardin, from fashion to the theatre, culture, licensing, real estate and the Maxim’s restaurants, are set to continue to thrive on a global scale. Especially in the ready-to-wear arena, as announced in a press conference on Tuesday by Rodrigo Basilicati, nephew of the renowned couturier who passed away on December 29 2020. The plan includes bolstering the label’s design studio with some 20 new hires, and staging a major catwalk show-event on December 29 2021, with the goal of reaching out to a younger audience.
Basilicati, an engineer by training, and a pianist, designer and architect, met Pierre Cardin in the 1990s, when the couturier put him in charge of the ‘Sculptures Utilitaires’ (utilitarian sculptures) furniture line. In 1999, Cardin expanded Basilicati’s role by co-opting him in the Pierre Cardin Evolution holding company, of which Basilicati became the general manager in 2018 and was appointed president in 2020, a few months before Cardin’s death. Basilicati, 51, now finds himself at the helm of an empire that, though undoubtedly not as vast as it was at its peak 30 years ago, remains a symbol of Parisian fashion, one Basilicati is keen to enhance and perpetuate.
In a press conference held at Parisian restaurant Maxim’s (owned by Cardin since 1981), Basilicati, together with Jean-Pascal Hesse, director of communications at Pierre Cardin since 1995, traced the outline of his plans for the group, which he intends to refresh and relaunch judiciously, respecting its founder’s legacy. For the time being, the plans don’t involve selling off property or other assets, nor hiring an external creative director. The idea is to continue with the work and the initiatives fostered by Cardin himself.
In terms of the Pierre Cardin fashion label, the goal is to “rejuvenate it and give a fresh look to the stores’ window displays.” Basilicati, Cardin’s spiritual heir, said that “we can keep the Pierre Cardin ready-to-wear line alive without parroting it, but simply respecting [its heritage], which is very clear, with instantly recognisable products. We want to keep the conversation about [Cardin] going without completely changing the line’s identity, as is done at other labels.” Basilicati himself will take charge of an augmented design studio. “I’m here to think like my uncle would, inasmuch as this is possible,” he added.
The company currently employs about 60 people, of whom 23 work for the fashion label, some of them having done so for as long as 30 to 40 years. The design team will expand, with the addition of 20 new employees. “Preserving Pierre Cardin’s expertise is crucial. He invented many tailoring techniques, a special system for sewing and for obtaining precision-designed shapes. If necessary, we will call in again members of the label’s former staff, so that they can hand over these techniques to the new generation,” said Basilicati.
With regards to Pierre Courtial, who joined Pierre Cardin five years ago for an internship and was then trained by Cardin himself, who last year allowed Courtial to launch his own collection within the studio, no specific plans are on the cards. “He had been very close to my uncle for the last two years. He will undoubtedly launch his own label. We will talk about it,” said Basilicati.
Cardin had time to talk things over with his nephew in 2020, a year marked by the pandemic. “He gave me plenty of ideas. He also left many sketches for new models, which will be developed for our next show. A very extensive tribute show, to be held exactly one year after his death, as a celebration of his legacy,” said Basilicati.
The show will be a grand affair, focusing on women’s ready-to-wear but also including some men’s items. Half of the looks will be previously unreleased creations by Cardin himself, half will be totally new ones designed by the studio. Cardin, who worked tirelessly during his 70-year career, has left a monumental design archive that is still to be digitalised, featuring tens of thousands of garments, all hoarded by the group.
“He created the equivalent of four designer lives’ worth [of clothes]! We will draw inspiration from his work, but also avoid copying or replicating it. We will hire young designers to refresh his style, while respecting his work,” said Basilicati. “It will be the first time that models created after Pierre Cardin’s death will be presented. The show also has the goal of inspiring our licensees, who remain our main source of revenue,” he added.
The number of active Cardin licenses worldwide has dropped from over 700 in the 1990s to nearly 350 presently. “Our partners have weathered the Covid-19 crisis and are keen to keep the brand. We would like to reach a younger audience. The idea is to look for new licenses, even for products we have never been involved with until now. Also, we would like to have products from all our licensed categories in every country we reach,” said Basilicati, who is hoping to generate a new buzz around the brand with the release in 43 countries of the film ‘House of Cardin’, directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes.
The value of the group’s aggregate revenue was not revealed at the press conference. “Of course, 2020 has been a tough year, the same as for the majority of businesses, but our group remains healthy and solid, it is not indebted and has unused financial capacity which might be tapped to get interesting projects off the ground,” concluded Basilicati. He disclosed he isn’t the only heir to Pierre Cardin, as some 20 family members are involved in the succession.
The Cardin group is planning to renovate the historic Maxim’s restaurant on Paris’s rue Royale, relaunching it with “a string of fine, interesting initiatives to restore the mood it enjoyed in the 1930-40s, opening it in the afternoon too and transforming it into a cultural and event venue, to attract a younger clientèle.”
Other projects include the revival of the Lacoste Festival in the eponymous Provence town, renaming it ‘Art of the theatre’ and no longer making it exclusively about opera. Also, the creation of a new Espace Cardin venue in Houdan, north-west of Paris, where the couturier bought a former dairy not far from the station, which will be transformed in the next few years into an entertainment and exhibition space notably hosting Pierre Cardin creations, as well as an academy, home to design studios and artist dwellings.
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