Call Guinness World Records: On the opening night of Paris Fashion Week, Alva Chinn laid claim to becoming the first model to walk for all 10 brands that took part in the Battle of Versailles, the historic fashion event that pitted five U.S. designers against France’s top couturiers.
“I’ve completed my bucket list,” the veteran U.S. model declared backstage at the Pierre Cardin show, held in a building designed by Oscar Niemeyer that resembles a flying saucer.
More from WWD
Dressed in a light gold jacket with a sculptural silver buckle, Chinn was back in Paris 50 years after the charity gala that went down in history as the night that put American fashion, and African American models, on the map.
Back then, she was not impressed with Cardin’s work. “I was so turned off by the spaceships and all the accoutrement,” she recalled. A visit to the Cardin retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 2019 made her reconsider. “I was like, what an idiot I was,” she said. “This man did some beautiful things.”
These days, the brand is making headlines less for its designs than for the succession battle that is raging among Cardin’s 22 descendants. His great-nephew Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, who took over the running of the house following the Space Age couturier’s death in 2020 at the age of 98, said the founder left a handwritten will designating him as sole heir.
But other family members are challenging the validity of the document and want to sell the fashion house and other assets, and split the proceeds. Basilicati-Cardin said that, despite the looming court battle, he’s as determined as ever to keep the business going.
“When I saw the will that my uncle wrote, my mind felt settled,” he said. “It became my mission. If that’s what he wanted for me, that’s what I have to do, so I’m really focused on the creative side and traveling to meet all of our licensees. As for the rest, I think justice will take its course.”
His spring lineup reflected his fascination with space, which has led the brand to partner with Thales Alenia Space, the builder of satellites that gather data for environmental protection, such as observing sea-surface temperatures. Dresses and tops featured metallic appliqué shells and corals.
“We have to start thinking about how to use the oceans to guarantee our survival,” Basilicati-Cardin said. “Plan B is not some distant planet.”
Having said that, some of these outfits were fit for a “Star Trek” convention. Cape-back coats and dresses adorned with outsized circles channeled the futuristic vibe of Cardin’s heyday during the 1960s youthquake. While some of the tailored looks now look a little dated, the brand’s colorblock Op Art shifts still have plenty of currency.
Basilicati-Cardin is also forging ahead with plans to revive Maxim’s, the historic restaurant that once hosted jetsetters from Jackie Kennedy to Andy Warhol. He has licensed its management to Paris Society, the hospitality group behind popular restaurants including Girafe and Apicius, with plans to reopen in mid-October. “I would love to see it back to how it was in the ‘80s,” he said.
Launch Gallery: Pierre Cardin RTW Spring 2024
Best of WWD