Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion at the Brooklyn Museum

words by Maacah Davis.

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l-r: Dustin Pittman, Maacah Davis, Matthew Yokobosky

l-r: Dustin Pittman, Maacah Davis, Matthew Yokobosky

I enter the Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion exhibit not as press, but as a newly-minted member of the Brooklyn Museum. I am in New York for the summer, to research for belladonna magazine’s future direction and connect with like-minds. I’ve always found my home in art, so this exhibition is well-timed and up my alley. By pure coincidence, I meet Senior Curator of Fashion and Material Culture Matthew Yokobosky before I enter the building and, for a moment, his outfit makes me entertain the purely irrational thought of running home to change into a leather skirt and chunky, mirrored, futuristic shoes.

On the 5th floor, at the exhibit’s entrance, what greets you is a tri-circle display that lets you know exactly what this will be: deceptively simple at first glance. On closer inspection: incredibly structured, layered, and premeditated. Behind the platform stands the “evening ensemble,” an ankle-length black jersey dress with parabolic shoulders and headpiece that create an austere silhouette. The ‘little black dress’ is meant to be a sophisticated neutral, of sorts. This dress is anything but neutral. See? Deceptively simple.

To appropriately experience his work, let alone curate and display it, what you have to understand about Pierre Cardin is that he is a master of “play.” He warps and creates structure, bends and disregards rules, asks and answers the questions “what if” and “why not.”

When I share a video of my view as I walk through with belladonna’s fashion director, she breathes, “that is a masterful use of space.” This is a dynamic multi-sensory experience that reflects the work of a man who refused to only play in any one assigned space.

Cardin has been derided for over-licensing his name, in a move that some have criticized as cheapening his brand. But, in an era and industry that has seen countless skilled fashion designers die unrecognized and penniless, can Cardin be faulted for racing full-speed away from obsolescence? Cardin is a man who lives thoroughly in the present while working toward the future while embracing that he doesn't know how it will exist yet. Exploring any and all avenues of potential expansion and revenue seems like a very on-brand thing for him to do.

This exhibit is a retrospective of looks from 20th century archives, but I didn't feel like I was looking back in time. It is a liminal space between past, present, and future: a reflection of the work of a man who confidently invents for a future that does not yet exist.

The exhibition is on view during regular Museum hours from July 20, 2019–January 5, 2020
Purchase tickets here.