It Seems Like Yesterday: Pierre Cardin

by Harry Benson

Swirling Models Cardin Paris_@Benson lg

It was 1977 and I was in Paris to cover the collections for French Vogue. Pierre Cardin was the first on the list (if I recall correctly) as he was showing early in the week. I was absolutely delighted to meet him as I had worn his navy blue blazers for years. The cut and fit were perfect.

We initially went to the Tuileries for some portraits and then had a pleasant lunch at his atelier with an editor from French Vogue. He seemed a rather shy man and opened up when I mentioned football, or “soccer.” From then on, it’s all he wanted to talk about. That suited me just fine since I had always envisioned playing goal for Scotland (only a few weeks ago I finally conceded it wasn’t going to happen).

There were dozens of photographs taken that day and only a few exist today-—after all, it was 38 years ago. But somehow I found the photograph shown here, which was taken later that afternoon at the rehearsal for Cardin’s couture presentation. He oversaw every last detail and instead of having the models walk stone-faced down the runway, he insisted they twirl to the music, giving the presentation an unexpected lively twist.

Over the next few days, I photographed other couturiers—Madame Grès, Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Courreges (who, along with Cardin, were the elusive stars). I followed them to their big workrooms with seamstresses busily working, frantically getting everything ready for the presentations. Perfection is what the couturiers demanded, and they were very serious about it.

Luckily, I found everyone helpful-—they wanted me to get good photographs for the magazine. And backstage on the big day, I rushed from place to place, eager to get the action as it happened from backstage. It was fun. And believe you me, it seems just like yesterday.