Monday, October 2, 2023

How the ‘Ecological Economy’ Is Redefining Pierre Cardin’s Futuristic Style


The future has always been Pierre Cardin’s muse. But as the label carries on after his passing in 2020, it’s redefining what future means. Later this month, Pierre Cardin is announcing its first award for achievements in sustainability. But as Rodrigo Basilicati Cardin, group president, says, it certainly won’t be the label’s last.

It’s been a slow shift for French fashion label Pierre Cardin following the beloved founder’s death at the end of 2020, at age 98. It didn’t help that the icon passed in the midst of the pandemic, either. But the new group president, Rodrigo Basilicati Cardin, nephew of the famed label founder, is finding his footing and charting a new course ahead for the iconic label.

While much of his work is aimed at honoring his great uncle, Basilicati Cardin is also working to redefine the label’s love for modern design by making that synonymous with sustainability. Its latest effort is Prix Bulles Cardin, an award dedicated to promoting sustainability and ecological innovation.

The Prix Bulles Cardin Award

Intended to overlap with the Cannes Film Festival, the label will announce the winner of its inaugural Prix Bulles Cardin award for excellence in working toward an ‘ecological economy’ on May 18th.

The event, which will hand out a €50,000 prize, was announced yesterday in Paris by Basilicati Cardin.

“Sustainability must be backed by economic realities, because otherwise companies will not be able to invest long term,” Basilicati Cardin said, noting that “research should be encouraged.”

Basilicati Cardin took over the label after his great uncle’s death. He says the idea for the prize came while he was organizing his first show as head of the label. According to Basilicati Cardin, his uncle often “looked to the stars” for his futuristic-looking designs, but Basilicati Cardin says humanity needs to focus on what’s happening right here on the planet.

Courtesy Pierre Cardin

There’s a lot happening to be concerned about. A new report published this week forecasted Earth has a 50-50 chance of reaching and surpassing 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures for sustained periods. Increases past that Paris Agreement target could bring catastrophic global events. Temperatures have already risen 1.1°C since the late 1800s, and impacts are being felt around the world with prolonged drought, intensified warming at the poles, and rising sea levels.

The award event is expected to see the Palais Bulles in Théoule-sur-Mer project images of Earth taken from as part of the Copernicus Earth observation program—bridging Pierre Cardin’s love of space with his nephew’s commitment to protecting the planet. Basilicati Cardin says the overlap with Cannes is also intended to leverage its global reach and bring attention to the award and the challenges facing the planet.

Filmmaker Patrick Dedole, a friend of Basilicati Cardin involved with the prize, said “the challenge isn’t the end of the world, it’s the end of the month” for most people and businesses, which presents problems in getting the fashion industry to take meaningful steps toward “degrowth.”

“The solidarity of [a common] future must take hold among them, and the best way to achieve this is to go toward them, see what ideas, desires, energies they have and understand what direction the brand will take,” said Dedole.

Palais Bulles | Courtesy Pierre Cardin

Prix Bulles Cardin includes support from the European Commission, the European Space Agency, and Thales Alenia Space, as well as the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority. Mauritius is a region particularly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels, said Basilicati Cardin.

While participation is voluntary, Basilicati Cardin is encouraging Pierre Cardin licensees to support the prize, contributing to future purses. It currently has 180 licensees around the globe.

Sustainability at Pierre Cardin

Last year, on the one-year anniversary of Cardin’s death, the late designer was celebrated on the tarmac of the National Air and Space Museum next to Le Bourget airport outside of Paris.

“The theme this year is space. It was the theme dearest to my uncle,” Basilicati-Cardin said of the event. Cardin’s love of space translated into synthetic materials—becoming one of the first couture labels to use them. Basilicati-Cardin explained, “He was less concerned with environmental issues. He saw modernity.”

But Basilicati-Cardin sees modernity, too, a future where those once imaginary space-age materials are the abundant sustainable ones.

“[My uncle] was the first to use synthetic materials, without imagining [the ecological challenge they’d become],” Basilicati-Cardin says.

“Now, I’m trying to get the whole team to work with synthetic materials that are upcycled or recycled.”


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