“House of Cardin” celebrates of one of the most famous, most merchandised and most enigmatic fashion designers the world has known: Pierre Cardin, now a vibrant 98.
For filmmakers P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, a couple who have been together nearly 30 years, it began with shopping. The duo, based in Palm Springs, have long been high-end Cardin collectors.
“We have furniture he’s made. The car that’s in the film, the 1972 AMC Javelin he did, that’s our car. We are Cardin-o-philes,” said Ebersole, 56.
In Paris, they “stumbled” into the Musee de Cardin, which Cardin opened in 2014 on the Right Bank.
At the museum’s adjacent merchandise shop, they learned Cardin often met his fans there on Tuesdays around 10.
The two were surprised Cardin was still alive. “He was 95 at the time. So the next time we were in Paris we went and, just by chance, we weren’t planning a documentary, we met all the people who (ended up) in the film.”
Cardin’s nephew suggested the project, telling them, “This would be a very good year to film my uncle.” Within two hours they were speaking to the man himself.
“You just meet him, he likes you, he says yes. The next thing we were making a documentary! We didn’t have funding but what an opportunity. So off we went.”
The notables in “House of Cardin” include Sharon Stone, Naomi Campbell and designers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Philippe Starck. “They are the two of Pierre’s proteges who are now huge names themselves.”
Among the surprises is this most private of designers is actually Italian, he came to Paris at the end of WWII, and he is gay — which is why the movie won the 2019 Venice Film Festival’s Queer Award.
“He’s said no to every autobiography,” Ebersole said. “He will say yes to television interviews, where he knows it’s just a promotion of the brand. But he has never wanted to let somebody in and do a whole study.”
“I think part of the reason he responded to us,” Hughes, 57, said, “here we were, this extremely comfortable married couple. I love what Gaultier says in the film: ‘He was never hiding, just living among his friends in an extremely open way.’
“He was of a generation where you didn’t have to claim your sexuality for the public.”
“Now,” Ebersole added, “it’s a different era, where people want to know.”
Which is why we hear Cardin say onscreen, “I was young, attractive and everybody wanted to sleep with me.”
“House of Cardin” is available on streaming platforms Tuesday.