Fans of documentaries should be delighted by the exceptionally well crafted House of Cardin, a new film about legendary fashion designer Pierre Cardin. Still very much alive and working at the age of 97, the film chronicles Cardin’s life from his birth in Italy to his first steps in the fashion world of Paris, which included working on the costumes for the classic 1946 Cocteau film Beauty and the Beast. After rising in the ranks in Christian Dior’s studio, Cardin formed his own fashion house in 1950.

The film details the many innovations that Cardin implemented in the fashion world, including the design of ready-to-wear clothes for a mass market, which led to his expulsion from the French federation for haute couture in 1959. He was also the first designer to branch out into creating non-clothing items such as eyeglasses and perfumes. Another first was the inauguration of men’s fashion shows and the seeking of an international presence with the placement of branches of his fashion house in Asia and Russia. He was also a prime mover in the hiring of non-Caucasian models. It is clear from the film that Cardin has an inventive, innovative and exploratory mind and his designs often have a futuristic look.

ScreenPicks posed some questions to directors P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes regarding House of Cardin.

In addition to being a world-famous designer, were there other factors as well that led you to want to make a documentary about Pierre Cardin?

When we found out there WAS a Pierre Cardin, that he was a real person in his late 90s who still goes to work every day, we were hooked. Who does that? He’s the last living grand couturier of the golden age of French fashion so being able to work with the legend himself was an irresistible honor. He’s never allowed filmmakers in before so it was quite special.

What do you think distinguishes Cardin from other designers?

He’s not glamorous. He doesn’t have a ponytail or an exotic cat. He’s a hard worker who really gets a kick out of creation and takes that appetite beyond clothing to art, performance art, architecture and business. He diversified the runway and changed the world we live in today. We can’t think of another designer who is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, can you?

What was it like to work with Pierre Cardin as the subject of a documentary? Was there anything particularly memorable or surprising that happened during the course of the filming?

Well, he’s 97 years old. Still sharp as a tack but not moving as fast as he once did. If he didn’t feel 100% he didn’t want to appear on camera so we had the difficult task of hanging out in Paris for an extended period of time. Which is really not anything to complain about. Every time we interviewed him it was a surprise because once we got him wired for sound we just let him go and followed him around. He loves to walk and talk and has a million stories.

Is there anything in general that you would like to tell audiences about House of Cardin?

People have told us they come in expecting a fashion doc and leave with their own creativity inspired. Pierre is really an uplifting force with a beautiful philosophy. In many ways, his story is the story of the 20th century.

Would you like to share with us what your next projects are? 

Because we are learning so much from our elders, we have started a doc about our pal in Palm Springs, Trini Lopez. Trini is the son of illegal Mexican immigrants who went on to be an American icon when Frank Sinatra made him an honorary member of the Rat Pack. Tony Orlando told us he paved the way for Latinx entertainers in the US because he refused to anglicize his name like his pal Ritchie Valens (formerly Valenzuela). And he’s only 82 and speaks English so it’s a lot easier!