“Newport, Newport” resounded at The Breakers. Matthew Gonder (who performs at the famous Maxim’s in Paris) had reworked Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as chanteur and emcee for Pierre Cardin’s fashion show in Newport, Rhode Island. This summer, the exclusive event celebrated Cardin’s career: a chic parade of 90 styles that featured his current collections as well as his creations from the 1950s and 1960s. It was a chronicle of seven decades of fashion—from the “mod” to the “modern.”
The Preservation Society of Newport County welcomed the designer—a visionary who once said, “The clothing I prefer is the one I create for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow”—to the iconic mansion. The scene was haute Newport, with 250 guests who included Diane Brown, the 55-year client of Cardin who introduced Trudy Coxe, CEO and executive director of the Preservation Society of Newport County, to the house. Cardin, who was unable to attend, decorated the front row with his fashion team: Maryse Gaspard (Cardin’s muse and, now, his director of haute couture) and Rodrigo Basilicata (Cardin’s nephew) as well as Dominique Raczynski (his assistant) and Richard Raczynski (one of his designers). He also forwarded his best in a recording that was played for the audience: “I’m so sorry not to be there. You can imagine my sadness at not being with you. I am here in bed. It will be a lovely event and I wish I were there. Please forgive me. Thank you, Trudy. I kiss you.”
The attendees—well turned out, of course—would return these sentiments across the ocean. The fashion show’s “finale” was held on the loggia of The Breakers, where, along with views of the Atlantic, there was cake and Champagne to toast the designer’s 95th birthday. Bonne santé, Monsieur Cardin!
Newport is an enclave that has embraced the fashionable, and their fashions, since the Gilded Age. And this moment for Cardin was as iconic as when Jacqueline Lee Bouvier married John Fitzgerald Kennedy in a dress by Ann Lowe, an African-American designer, at Hammersmith Farm in 1953. Or when Ralph Lauren designed the costumes for Robert Redford and the cast of the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby, which was filmed at Marble House and Rosecliff.
For fashion fans who didn’t make it to Newport in time for his birthday, the Preservation Society is continuing the celebration with “Pierre Cardin: 70 Years of Innovation,” an exhibition that features 42 pieces from Cardin’s archives—from the space-inspired “Cosmocorps” collection of the 1960s to the thermoformed “Cardine” dress that was worn by Lauren Bacall in 1968. It also includes a section dedicated to Maxim’s (which Cardin has owned since 1981) that shows off works by Georges Goursat (or the artist known as “SEM”). This ode to Cardin and his inventiveness will remain on view at Rosecliff (548 Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island) through January 1, 2018.
“The Preservation Society of Newport County was honored to be the host for Monsieur Cardin’s 70-year retrospective show and exhibition. We share his passion for art, design, and excellence,” said Coxe. “While we missed Monsieur Cardin’s presence on Saturday, we certainly felt his genius and design sensibility. He personally curated the entire show specifically for us in Newport, and we will all remember it forever.”