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 Working With Pierre Cardin

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20081205
PostWorking With Pierre Cardin

Working with Pierre Cardin


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Pierre Cardin and Linda Morand


Americans in Paris

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Missy Prowell far left, Linda Morand third from left

From the Diary of L. Morand Paris November 1966

It is my second day in Paris. I can only speak a few words of French. I am nineteen years old, away from home for the first time. Paris Planning, my modeling agency, sends me over to Pierre Cardin for a fitting. I will be modeling his 1967 Collection on the runway for private clients, exclusive buyers and the invited World Press. Diana Vreeland and all the top editors will be there, including my friends from Mademoiselle, Nonie Moore and Deborah Blackburn. The photos will appear in newspapers and magazines through the news bureaus. Vogue Patterns has booked me for their selections from the Cardin Collection.

I am very happy that he had already decided to use me sight unseen, from the Mademoiselle cover and layouts. "I must have ze Super Chick," he has told Francois Lano, referring to my recent spread in Mademoiselle where I portrayed a Space Creature. I am very excited to get to work for him. He feels I have the androgynous figure he prefers to show off the immaculate, sleek tailoring, he has perfected, and that my futuristic space heroine image has the right image for his new line.
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I am delighted to learn that my pals Ulla Bomser, Missy Prowell Wallis Franken and, Alana Collins have been booked too. At least I will have somebody to talk to, I think as I stroll rapidly down the Rue Tronchet, flanked on the south by the incredible Madelene, a church that looks like a Greek Temple. I stop for a few minutes to check out "La Baggagerie", a boutique that has the most original handbags. I make a mental note to get one next time I go to the agency. Then I look into Vog, another fab boutique. The prices are not bad!

I look for a taxi but there do not seem to be any around. In Paris, you don’t flag cabs down like in New York. You have to find a taxi stand and wait in line. I am in a terrible hurry. I don't dare be late, so I go to the head of the line, hoping to use some charm to convince someone to let me get ahead. The man at the head of the line readily agrees to let me in line and to share his taxi. He turns out to be the set designer for a movie starring Peter Falk, the star of the wildly popular TV series "Colombo. He invites me to lunch to meet Peter and John Cassevettes. He is very charming and I take his number and decide to maybe give him a call later.

We are in a Space Race according to Time magazine and Life magazine. Astronauts are being featured on covers of news magazines and the whole world is fascinated by the future, keyed up about who will be the first country to get a man on the moon. Cardin has a passionate love of science fiction, astronauts and the cosmos. He is determined to single handedly ignite the future, although Paco Rabanne and Andre Couregges are feeling the same vibes. His creations have the trimmings of science fiction and space travel. The fashion world is astonished at his space age 3-D shift, and his "white breasts" dress. Cardin raises skirts 4" above the knee and plunges necklines back and front to the navel.

My feet are hardly touching the ground as I enter the crowded atelier with about a dozen artisans, men and women, working on the various stages in the structure of the one-of-a kind garments. The clothes are made out of vinyl, wool, metal rings, carpenters nails, and artificial diamonds. There are knitted cat suits that I love, taut leather trousers, and close-fitting helmets, that I hate, and bat-wing jumpsuits. Various French mannequins parade around, in skirts, shifts, and pantsuits while seamstresses make little tweaks.

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Linda Morand far right, again with the helmet, Wallis Franken, third from left

Cardin's determined quest for the future look has led to the production of brilliant fashion shows. I am aware that in 1963, he brought out the "Cosmo corps" collection featuring colored tights, roulette trousers, and in ‘64, he presented a collection of mini-shifts, bisected bi-colored outfits, with zigzags or diagonal strings of his greatly beloved scallops. His creations proclaim a powerful talent and he is becoming globally renowned. With an instinctive genius for marketing, he will become one of the most recognized names on the planet.

I am led to a cabine, which is French for dressing room,lined with mirrors and lights with a long make-up table and stools. There are many hats and other accessories hanging on the walls and stuffed on the abundant shelves. There are still more tailors and seamstresses, hunched over thier sewing machines, working on the final touches of exquisite garments.

I am told by a rather rude, middle-aged woman to undress down to my underwear. I deftly shed my bell-bottoms and poor-boy sweater and lay them over a near-by chair. I am wearing a special model-garment called a body stocking, which is a flesh-colored opaque dancer's leotard. A few haughty French mannequins look me up and down, turning up their noses and mumbling under their breaths. They are not thrilled with the House of Cardin for bringing in foreigners to take the spotlight off them.

Most of them have great figures but they are not what you would call photogenic. A nose just a bit too long, a chin that is a tiny bit weak,a face that may be over the age of twenty-six, these may look just fine in person, even adding a bit of charm and character, but they are not good in photographs.

One model was very friendly and very pretty. Her name was Hiroko. She was Asian, and strangly enough for a model, very petite, but exquisite in every way. The other mannequins did not seem to like her either. I have heard that Cardin has built the entire collection around her, his eye on the vast markets in the Far Easr.

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Hiroko in the atelier at Cardin

For the last few years, Cardin has astonished the world with his innovations. As a couturier, he has been restively creative, experimenting with the concept of abstraction, exaggeration, technique and technology. As such he is almost more of an architect that a designer. With all the media attention, Cardin needs girls that will look good in the glare of the flashbulbs at the end of the runway as the world press shoots with still cameras and film cameras.

He decides he will have the current crop of new young American cover girls. So the opportunity is opening up for American photo models to conquer the sacred runways of Paris. Forget about the fact that we have no idea how to walk properly. All that matters is that we will look pretty on camera. The regular house mannequins are still used for private showings. They hate us for taking their places at the main press show, and we cannot blame them. But in New York, we have to put up with the influx of Swedish, Danish, German and British models. It is the survival of the fittest.

Still in my body stocking and tights, I am led into the main atelier where assistants surround Monsieur Cardin himself. He is a fairly good-looking Frenchman of a certain age and flamboyantly gay. He seems to be in a bad mood. I step onto a sort of podium. A young woman comes in with a pile of sketches. She seems to be nervous and a little afraid of him. Cardin grabs one large sketch and with a charcoal stick he makes a few sweeping changes. After a matter of two or three lines, he shoves the oversized sheet back at her, all the time chiding her in a rapid stream of French. She scurries away. Cardin often gets easily upset and is volatile and fiery in his speeches.

Next he has me try on a suit made of stiff white nubby fabric.It is a sleeveless dress with a jacket that has a kind of wide, stand-up manderin collar. It has large semi-circular cut-outs on the sides, long sleeves and three covered buttons down the front. Unfortunately, it is to be shown with a bucket shaped helmet, which obscures most of my face. Kind of a Space-Age burka, except the skirt is too short..

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Then another clerk shows him a pile of sample fabrics. He chooses a white vinyl swatch and some dark green jersey, remarking that there is nothing suitable. He does not acknowledge my existence, as I stand there shivering, whether from cold or fright I do not know. However, I am an old pro at being ignored while in my underwear, having survived the fittings at American Vogue with Diana Vreeland, who never once looked me in the eye. She just looked at the garment as if I were nothing but a clotheshorse. That's what I was, I guess. But now I was living a dream. Imagine me, the skinny dork from Long Island, walking the runways of Paris!
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Hiroko

He begins by draping a canvas type fabric around me, actually cutting and pinning it on my body. I learn that this premiere garment is called voile. It is fascinating to be in on the construction of an haute couture garment. I do my best to keep still. I have plenty of practice from all my bookings at McCall's Patterns in New York. I remember loving the fittings, because they paid a dollar a minute. Here the pay is much less, but I do not even worry about it. The experience is worth the pay cut. Occasionally he speaks to me, asking me, in a charming French accent ,if it is comfortable, but mostly he concentrates on his "sculpture," chattering away in rapid French, to his assistants, who surround him like ministering angels.

After that I try on a black long sleeved body suit and a purple tunic with four square cutouts on the front, a dropped waist with a silver buckled belt. It is remade to fit my proportions exactly.(see group shot above) Finally I get to wear my favorite, a shocking pink body-skimming A-line shift with cut in arm holes. It has a cute little matching hat.

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To everything, he adds his own inspired ideas. He knows exactly what he wants, and he surely gets it. Only trouble is, he changes his mind often. The grueling fitting is finally over, and I rush back to the hotel on foot, quickly reaching the charming French hotel that the agency has found for me and Susan Brainard, another American model. I like her very much and plan to become great friends with her. Ulla Bomser is in the next room. She is my friend from New York and has offered to show me the ropes in Paris.

I am exhausted and need a little nap. Eileen Ford has invited me to dinner later that night at Castel, the most exclusive and hottest restaurant/night club in Paris. I plan to make an early night of it, because I have to work early the next morning for American Vogue with the notorious Bert Stern.

And I have got Peter Falk's friend's number.

To be continued….

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