At 97, the French haute couturier Pierre Cardin still conjures designs daily in his office. Since his early career working for noted Parisian houses such as Maison Paquin, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Christian Dior in the 1940s, Cardin’s oeuvre has expanded from refined suiting—the memorable red wool ensemble Jacqueline Kennedy wore in 1961 comes to mind—to otherworldly silhouettes and materials. In 1964, the space-obsessed designer presented his landmark Cosmocorps collection, a pinnacle of mod style with its miniskirts and dresses, geometric details, and one-piece jumpsuit designs. Seven years later, Cardin became the first civilian to don Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 spacesuit, and his extraterrestrial fixation continues.
The retrospective exhibition “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion” at the Brooklyn Museum—timed to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing—explores the designer’s seven-decade-long career. Cardin’s multifaceted world is on full display: one filled to the brim with oddball space-age fashion, experimental textiles, product collaborations, and licensing opportunities, the latter of which sent his brand globally into homes and closets. Cardin persists today, reifying his vision for newness while predicting a tomorrow in which his designs will serve as a uniform of sorts: “In 2069, we will all walk on the moon or Mars wearing my ‘Cosmocorps’ ensembles. Women will wear Plexiglas cloche hats and tube clothing. Men will wear elliptical pants and kinetic tunics.”
“Future Fashion” uses Cosmocorps as a prism through which to view Cardin’s explorations of gender, technology, and popular culture via his unorthodox silhouettes. (One section is devoted entirely to “bold shoulders.”) While fairly staid in layout, the show comes alive in the penultimate gallery, a room done up in intergalactic style with twinkling LED lights and a Saturn-like halo installation. It features Cardin’s more recent designs, including a number of “Parabolic” hoop-skirted evening gowns that pack flat for travel.