Paris Museums: The Amazingly Fertile Mind of Pierre Cardin

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join a group for a guided tour of the Pierre Cardin Museum, located in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Ouen. Organized by the Saint-Ouen tourist office, the visit represented an opportunity to take a peek into the world of high fashion.

The tour was given by Renée Taponier, who is not only conservator of the museum, but also the personal assistant of the great fashion designer himself. Her manner of presentation is informal and upbeat. Most importantly, she was very informative, giving fascinating detail about the apparel that was displayed on the mannequins. She told us that Mr. Cardin chose the town of Saint-Ouen for his museum (opened in November 2006) because he foresees a great future for the city.

I have never been much interested in haute couture. One has to be very rich and very thin to be able to purchase and wear those clothes. Yet, from the moment I set foot in the door, I was astounded by the garments that I saw displayed on the mannequins. By looking at the clothes as works of art, rather than as adornment for the frivolous, I couldn't help but think that Mr. Cardin must be one of the greatest artists of our time.

Madame Taponier took us by some 200 mannequins that were dressed in garments that had been created from the 1950s up to the last decade. Women's clothes were predominant, but there were mannequins dressed in men's apparel as well. Most of the clothing looked to me as if it would be uncomfortable to wear, but then the people who wear these garments are probably more interested in dressing to impress rather than in dressing comfortably. And impress they do! There is no denying that a man or woman wearing Pierre Cardin high-fashion apparel will attract attention. Incidentally, Mr. Cardin did not forget the masses in creating his designs. According to information that I found on the Internet, in 1959 he was the first high-fashion designer to attach his name to ready-to-wear clothing. He was expelled from the Chambre Syndicale for that offense (but was soon reinstated).

As well as clothing, Mr. Cardin has designed furniture, lamps, beds, lights, sofas...; jewelry, rings, necklaces, watches...; accessories such as purses, gloves, eyeglasses; and more... Ow! All of this creativity makes my head hurt! Many examples of these works are on display in the museum.

Mr. Cardin has won countless awards and honors. His Web site is a good place to start for those who want to learn more about his fascinating life.

Even the most jaded traveler will find a visit to the museum to be an unforgettable, and quite possibly a mind-blowing, experience.

Pierre Cardin Museum - Past, Present, Future
33, boulevard Victor Hugo
93400 Saint-Ouen


Metro: Mairie de Saint-Ouen (Line 13)

Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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