Millions can identify the iconic logo, but few know the man behind the larger-than-life label. A chic and lively peek into the mind of Pierre Cardin and his epic design empire—from clothes to furniture to eyeglasses— House of Cardin is a globetrotting journey across the decades, examining the modernist styles he pioneered. Featuring in-depth interviews with Cardin himself, along with Jean-Paul Gaultier, Philippe Starke, and Sharon Stone, among others. We’re thrilled to welcome co-directors P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes to the Festival for its Chicago premiere this week!
What inspired you to give Pierre Cardin the documentary treatment?
Divine intervention, actually. We are mad collectors of Pierre Cardin furniture, his homewares, his record label and we even bought the AMC Javelin that he had designed in 1972. We were in Paris and stumbled upon his museum in the Marais which was closed. So, instead, we went to his boutique next door, Evolution, and were showing the handsome man working there pictures of our collection when he said he thought Mr. Cardin would probably love to meet us. What?! We had never even taken the time to realize there was a real Pierre Cardin! Let alone a 95-year-old who was still active and working. He was a myth to us. A legend. When we eventually met him, which is a story in itself, he looked at the picture of the Javelin on David’s phone, looked at us and said: “What do you want to do and when do you want to start?” We later learned from Jean-Paul Gaultier and Phillipe Starck that Pierre is clairvoyant and just knows immediately when he meets people whether or not he wants to work with them.
What was it like having unfettered access to the legend, himself?
Still unbelievable. He really is the antithesis of his colleagues like Karl Lagerfeld and YSL. He is not particularly glamorous and lives an almost monastic life. He simply wakes up every day with a new idea, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. In moments when you are looking into his eyes and realizing those eyes were looking into Cocteau’s, Jean Marais’, Visconti’s, Passolini’s, just to mention a few, you realize he is treating you with the same attention and respect he gave to them. We worked with Cher and it was a similar sensation. They are human, but extraordinarily so.
Can you tell us a bit about your working relationship?
We met in the FBI: the Food and Beverage Industry, working at the Border Grill on Melrose Avenue in LA 28 years ago. We were both in love with movies and then fell in love with each other. When we finally started working together we felt we found magic. We’ve been making narrative films together for a long time, and House of Cardin is actually our fifth documentary together. On our first two, David was the director and Todd was producer even though we were both doing everything, and for this film and Mansfield 66/67 we decided to just take equal producing/directing credit. The Coen Brothers had merged so we decided it was okay. We enjoy being a team and get along famously.
What excites you about bringing your film to the Chicago International Film Festival?
It is a legendary festival, especially for those of us who were obsessed with those Victor Skrebneski posters. It is one of those goals you hope to experience as a filmmaker so we are very happy to be a part of it. David won the Silver Hugo for Best Student Short in 1987 when he was a student filmmaker at NYU but he didn’t attend the festival, so there’s a certain thrill in coming full circle, now 30 odd years later. We realized that David is the exact same age as the festival. So he was in the 23rd edition when he was 23 and now in the 55th when he is 55. We’ve been to Chicago a few times and absolutely love it.
How have audiences responded to your film?
We’ve been very fortunate. We got a standing ovation at the premiere at the Venice Film Festival and it was so popular in Reykjavik that they added additional screenings. Even kids were into it. We have proof now that the film has indoctrinated many into the cult of Cardin. People have left the film in love with and inspired by Pierre. We are giving people a lot to Google about. But the most important audience member, Mr. Cardin, has given us the greatest compliment, saying: “It’s intelligent, thoughtful, and all true!”
What other films are you excited to see at the festival?
We really can’t wait to see our pal Jeanie Finlay’s film Seahorse, about a man giving birth.
What do you hope audiences take away from House of Cardin?
We hope to squash ageism. Pierre is 97 and more vital than ever. Our elders have so much wisdom to give us if we listen. Pierre reminds us that our lives begin every day and you really can do anything you want to. He predicted the future and has changed the world we live in, through the cut and the line
House of Cardin screens Sat, Oct 26 @ 2:45 pm and Sun, Oct 27 @ 2:45 pm, with P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes in attendance. Purchase tickets here!