Pierre Cardin: the fashion designer who dressed interiors

Pierre Cardin (1922-2020) was a fashion pioneer and one of France’s greatest couturiers. What is less known is that the French businessman of Italian origin also exercised his talent as a furniture designer, starting in the 1970s. 3 years before his death, in 2017, on the occasion of the Milan Furniture Fair, Carla Sozzani’s Gallery at the 10 Corso Como concept store presented a retrospective of Pierre Cardin’s design creations, for the1st time presented with a selection of iconic Haute Couture models from his famous brand. A beautiful exhibition and a tribute to the creative talent of Monsieur Cardin. In this article, we look back at the history of the designer Pierre Cardin, with an overview of his most beautiful creations.

Pierre Cardin in 2017 on the occasion of the exhibition “Les Sculptures Utilitaires” organised by the Carla Sozzani Gallery in Milan
©️Carla Sozani Gallery, Milan.

View of the exhibition “Les Sculptures Utilitaires”, dedicated to the pieces of design furniture created by Pierre Cardin
©️Ilvio Gallo – courtesy Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan

First of all, Pierre Cardin had the desire to design furniture very early on. He did so in the early 1930s, when he was only 8 years old. It would be 40 years before he produced his first pieces… The sense of form is what fascinates this bulimic creator who readily uses the term design when he talks about fashion: ” Fashion design is so diverse. It doesn’t have a clear identity like it used to with Balenciaga, Chanel, Cardin, Courreges

Towards the end of the 1970s, Pierre Cardin collaborated with the publisher Steiner, who launched new ranges of furniture, including numerous seats, with the aim of putting France back at the centre of the game in the creation of designer furniture. Unfortunately, the various collections created were not as successful as expected, despite the critical success of the press. But the Steiner episode is interesting, because it shows Cardin’s know-how, which combines luxury, know-how and audacity in his creations. The already internationally renowned fashion designer is also very comfortable with furniture design.

We can see the designer’s taste for geometric and futuristic shapes

Another foray into the world of industrial design little known to the general public is his investment in the creation of the twin-engine Westwind Jet for the American firm Atlantic Aviation, in 1978. Cardin designed the interior and exterior of the jet. At the time, the designer was one of the best known French personalities in the United States: in 1974, he was thefirst designer to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine, like Raymond Loewy at another time…

Pierre Cardin and the Westmind Jet of the company Atlantic Aviation. He designed the interior and exterior decoration.

Pierre Cardin puts his famous signature on the Jet, he designs the distinctive stripes on the aircraft’s exterior fuselage.

Despite the collaboration with Steiner not meeting the brand’s expectations, Pierre Cardin would employ his creative genius in another project that would make him a recognised designer with a very distinctive style. Still in the 1970s, he opened his own gallery called Évolution and did what he did best: producing haute-couture furniture…

Pierre Cardin started his own production of stylish, high-end furniture in 1977. In his gallery, the designer exhibits the creations of Maria Pergay, Yonel Lebovici and Serge Manzon, but also his own creations. He is moving towards a more elitist production. The furniture he creates is often produced in limited series (between 8 and 10 pieces). But to understand the DNA of the maestro’s design creations, it is necessary to go back to the “Cardin” style that made his success and his reputation in the world of haute-couture and ready-to-wear

The furniture created by Pierre Cardin is indeed a reflection of what the designer achieved in fashion. To begin with, Pierre Cardin never stopped experimenting to invent the garment of the future. In the 1960s, he drew his inspiration from the conquest of aerospace and created the “cosmonaut fashion”, with a very “pop” coloured touch. Above all, he paid attention to curves and shapes, shaping clothing as if it were a real sculpture… He does the same with furniture: he imagines and designs furniture that is a real sculpture. He likes to say: ” It’s silly to place a piece of furniture against a wall […], if my furniture is double-sided, it’s to be seen from all angles. From the back as well as the front

Boa chair by Pierre Cardin, reminiscent of Frank Gerhy’s Wiggle Side Chair. A real sculpture that floats in space…
©️ Pierre Cardin for me

The “Cardin” style is based on an immoderate love of geometric shapes and curves. His haute-couture designs reveal shapes that build geometric silhouettes based on rounds and triangles, giving the whole a certain sculptural volume. The furniture of the Cardin Line reflects this aesthetic quite well: furniture with geometric shapes and sensual and daring curves that are true sculptures that can be contemplated from the front and the back, in a very sober style.

The famous Boa chair and a ready-to-wear piece, a similarity of shapes…
©️ Good

A lacquered chest of drawers with geometric shapes signed Pierre Cardin in the image of his clothing creations of trapezoidal shapes with shiny materials, here vinyl
©️ Good

Yellow lacquered console that is reminiscent of the shapes of haute-couture models made by Pierre Cardin.
©️ Good

For his custom-made furniture, Pierre Cardin invented the ” Utilitarian Sculptures ” collection, which designates pieces of furniture with sinuous or geometric sculptural shapes, very elegant, with ample volumes and which add to their decorative function that of utility. Thus, Pierre Cardin’s sculptures are pieces of furniture or accessories of common use: chest of drawers, table, lamp, chair, console, storage cabinet, etc.

What do they have in common? Apart from their sleek and futuristic sculptural form, Pierre Cardin uses precious materials (ebony, macassar, lapis lazuli), he likes to make the surfaces shiny and smooth, which is why many pieces are made of lacquered wood. Pierre Cardin calls on past arts and crafts such as cabinet making (he is a great connoisseur of Art Nouveau and Art Deco). The colours are bright, “pop” with a pronounced taste for green, which Cardin refers to as the colour of well-being. A Japanese influence can also be seen in certain rooms

Since 2007, the Sculptures Utilitaires have borrowed heavily from the forms of fauna and flora. The style has remained the same, pieces that can be considered true works of art. In the book Pierre Cardin, évolution (ed. Flammarion, 2006), the couturier told its author: ” I wanted to make furniture like sculptures, to be looked at from all angles, just like the bodies I dress“.

François Boutard

Article cover : ©️ Proantic