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Canberra has famously been described as a ‘good sheep station ruined’ but it was sheep that attracted one of the world’s most famous fashion designers to the nation’s capital.
In 1967, Italian-born French designer Pierre Cardin was at the very top of his game. He’d attracted worldwide fame thanks to his creation—the ‘bubble dress’ and his fashion-forward designs reflecting popular culture, including his fascination with space travel.
However, instead of hopping on a rocket to the Moon, Cardin boarded a plane to Australia, thanks to an invitation from the Australian Wool Board to bring his avant-garde ‘space-race’ inspired collection Down Under. It was hoped that publicity from the Cardin tour would encourage other high-end fashion couturiers to use Australian Wool.
And so Pierre Cardin found himself standing outside Canberra Theatre Centre on a hot, blue sky day with a parade of models wearing his Spring/Summer collection.
Photos held in the National Archives of Australia show just how quirky his designs were, with models standing on London Circuit in rocket-shaped short A-line dresses looking to the sky like space explorers. Another model wears a pale blue maxi dress with a white-edged cape and hood.
There are also photos of Cardin running with sheep at Tralee Station, just a few kilometres out of Canberra.
Cardin’s visit to Australia was captured by the ABC in an award-winning documentary, Cardin in Australia directed by Peter Thompson. The film juxtaposed the reality of wool production on Australian farms with the glamour of the Parisian fashion world.
In the documentary, he is addressed by an Australian journalist at a press conference who says, “I don’t think Australia is ready for it….it’s too crazy” to which Cardin replies, “If you are not crazy, you are not interesting”.
To view more images of Pierre Cardin’s fashion taking during the Australian Wool Board tour view the NAA’s digital gallery.