Long before bedsheets and candlesticks were stamped with fashion designers’ logos, Pierre Cardin began a love affair with licensing. Mentored by Christian Dior, Italian-born, Paris-based Cardin launched his own collection in 1950, putting forth avant-garde designs like the bubble dress and color-blocked sheaths (often covered with his signature bull’s-eye prints). He was a couturier with an eye on the masses, however, and in 1966, WWD reported that Cardin resigned from the Chambre Syndicale and dove into ready-to-wear. He first showed that year in New York and took his collections on the road, from the Soviet Union to Japan, where he licensed men’s wear (ties, suits) as well as women’s wear, all cleverly branded with his famous pop colors and namesake label. Hundreds more licenses followed—there are more than 800—from children’s wear to luggage, fragrances to flatware, home goods to pens, lighters to watches, floor tiles to furniture. The cross-promotional (not to mention lucrative) conceit came at a cost: By the early Eighties, having designed interiors for so-called American muscle cars and the uniforms for the Pakistan International airline, among other items, Cardin’s name no longer possessed the same high-fashion credibility—yet that business savvy set the money-making standard for designers for years to come. And the 88-year-old designer is still at it. On the eve of his spring 2011 collection, he told WWD he wants to raise his profile among young people: “I want to show them I am still avant-garde and that I produce original designs.”
Moment 27: Pierre the Pioneer
An earlier adopter of licensing, Pierre Cardin has been adorning ties, fragrances, flatware and more with his name since the Sixties.
Special IssueWWD 100 issue 11/01/2010