Speaking Friday at the Night of Stars gala presented by the Dallas chapter of Fashion Group International, Basilicati-Cardin explained that a Texan wanted to buy 200,000 pieces of a pleated red coat that Cardin showed at his first fashion show in Paris.
“My uncle, being an Italian, said, ‘OK,’ but he had just five workers with him,” said Basilicati-Cardin, the late designer’s great-nephew.
The designer got an idea, Basilicati-Cardin continued. He explained to the buyer how to cut and tailor the coat, provided patterns and sent two men as temporary guides in exchange for 3 percent of sales.
“That was a new idea,” Basilicati-Cardin said. “A few years after, everybody did the same. So everything really started from Texas because of this Texan.”
The annual fundraiser drew a sold-out audience of 350 — its biggest ever — to the Thompson Hotel for a Cardin retrospective runway show plus award presentations to Fern Mallis and Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding of London-based Palmer/Harding.
“Those clothes have certainly stood the test of time,” said former Neiman Marcus Group chief executive officer Karen Katz, who gave FGI’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Basilicati-Cardin and the House of Cardin.
“Pierre Cardin was a visionary in the truest sense of the word,” she said. “The future was his design muse, and he never looked back. He was also a man who thought exciting design should be accessible to all, which translates to affordable to all, a truly rebellious thought for a designer living in Paris and functioning in the rarefied world of haute couture where exclusivity reigned.”
Thanking FGI for “this incredible evening,” Basilicati-Cardin cited the three longtime house designers who he brought to the fete.
“I didn’t want to change [the design team] because you saw what they did and are able to do,” he said. “We can go on, I think. Do you agree?”
Basilicati-Cardin is looking for a ready-to-wear licensee and has begun visiting current licensees on a quest to align their products more closely with the image and style of the house, he told WWD.
Pierre Cardin left him the entire business in a handwritten will, though it is being contested, he said.
Halston creative director Ken Downing presented the Icon of Innovation prize to Mallis.
Downing said Mallis is best known for revitalizing New York Fashion Week with the move into tents at Bryant Park, pointing out that she also cofounded DIFFA, Fashion Targets Breast Cancer and Seventh on Sale plus created “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis,” the live interview series at 92 NY that Rizzoli chronicled in two books published in 2015 and in May.
“Fern is kind of the Oprah of the fashion industry,” Downing said. “Fern has been a first in everything she’s taken on, and she’s fearless… She is at the end of the day an amazing human being.”
At the podium, Mallis said “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis,” which she launched on a rainy night in 2011 with a conversation with Norma Kamali, is her most important legacy.
“The books are in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress, which makes me very proud,” she said.
Fashion show producer and model Jan Strimple presented the Career Achievement in Fashion honor to Palmer/Harding, whose label she has long championed.
Palmer, who described himself as a “high school dropout from a working class family in central Texas,” is a success story for FGI Dallas, which awarded him a full scholarship to study fashion in London in 2003.
“We all knew he was a stellar student, and we all knew he would succeed,” Strimple said. “He did the work.”
The two designers met while Palmer was in London, and Harding thanked FGI Dallas for leading Palmer to him.
“He became my best friend and the love of my life,” Harding said.
The night’s proceeds benefit FGI’s scholarship fund. They included the $3,500 sale of a 25 percent discount for life to Palmer/Harding, plus $9,500 for a trip to New York Fashion Week and $10,000 for a five-night stay in Paris with tickets to the Cardin runway show and after party at Maxim’s.