Pierre Cardin’s Futuristic Fashions at the Brooklyn Museum

Looking for some sparkle and shine to celebrate the holidays?  The Brooklyn Museum’s Pierre Cardin retrospective offers some 80 ensembles and a total 170 dazzling options.

“Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” on view through January 5, presents fresh perspectives on the legendary fashion designer. Though he dressed the rich and famous, men and women of elite society, Cardin was something of a rebel and free thinker. Beyond innovative and creative, the pieces on view veer into futuristic, radical and revolutionary. 

Cardin, who’s now in his late 90s, is not just a fashion designer. He’s also a businessman, an inventor, a sculptor, a lighting and furniture designer and an iconoclast. Inspired by cultures and eras where women and men dressed similarly, Cardin was an early explorer of the idea of unisex clothing. Examples of his “Cosmocorps” bodysuits, jumpsuits and unitards are on display. Endlessly customizable, they were worn by Hollywood starlets and models as well as fashion-forward men like Truman Capote and Salvador Dali.

Cardin reinvented the silhouette, using straight lines and lots of circles as well as new kinds of materials like plastic and even lenticular prints (with colors and shapes that shift as the eye moves) to create surprising effects. As the 1960s jettisoned into the space age, he fully embraced the excitement, even designing costumes for “Star Trek” and visiting NASA to study spacesuits. 

Videos, magazines, photographs, and a monitor playing “The Jetsons” attest to how Cardin’s designs influenced the look of a whole era. In fact, though he’s still designing today, it’s those 1960s looks, with miniskirts, vinyl visors, and go-go boots he’s best known for.  In the 1980s Cardin was partly responsible for super-wide shoulders that defined the look of the decade.

Born in Italy in 1922, Pierre Cardin was interested in fashion from an early age. At 14, he started as an apprentice tailor, eventually working his way up to an assistant of Elsa Schiaparelli. He later became head of Christian Dior. But perhaps the most radical thing Cardin did wasn’t on a design table, but in business. In 1958, he was the first couturier to present a ready-to-wear line at a department store, Printemps, in the heart of Paris. It got him kicked out of the Chambre Syndicale, the French federation of couture. Always exploring, Cardin’s name and designs would end up in cars, on pens, perfumes, furniture—he did what so many are trying to today. He became a global brand. 

The exhibition is curated and presented by Matthew Yokobosky, senior curator, and an award-winning theatrical designer. His fluency with sets and costumes comes through at every turn in the show. From the opening collection to the final galaxy inspired gallery, it’s a glittering glimpse of forward-thinking fashion. 

Photos by Adel Gorgy

“Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” through January 5
The Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn,NY

About Mary Gregory (35 Articles)
Mary Gregory is an award-winning art critic and journalist whose work with museums, galleries, and auction houses led her to writing about art for publications like Newsday, Long Island Pulse, Afterimage, Art Week, Our Town, and the Chelsea News. A member of the International Association of Art Critics, she has degrees in both English and art history, and her fiction has been anthologized by the Georgia Museum of Art. ------------------Adel Gorgy's photojournalist work, which focuses specifically on art news and exhibitions, has been widely published in New York area magazines, newspapers and journals both online and in print. His fine art photography has been seen around the world in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries.