Pierre Cardin AM/FM Stereo Cassette System
Last week, I was doing laps around a second-hand store when I looked down in the electronics section and spotted a name I wasn’t expecting to see, Pierre Cardin. It was written in script near the top of a rather eighties looking stereo system.
I was, of course, intrigued.
I reached down to check it out and maybe bring it over to the testing area. Getting up close, you could see it was a very plastic budget looking piece. Lifting it up confirmed its cheapness, it felt like it might have been empty inside. Usually when I am carrying something this bulky, it’s a challenge, but I cannot stress how light this stereo is.
At the testing station, I plugged it in and was surprised to see that it worked fine. The radio, without antenna, was static-filled, but functioning. After grabbing a tape from another section, I was able to confirm that the cassette deck worked. Although it did lack any bells and whistles.
Sound-wise this system is not going to win any awards, its wired speakers are pretty flimsy and unsurprisingly lack much bass. Still, they worked well enough. The speakers were detachable, so if you had something beefier you could attach them to, you could probably get a slightly better sound, but I don’t see that being worth the effort.
The stereo does have a noise filter switch, and this did appear to make a difference when flipped. Not a huge difference, but it was nice to hear.
Turning it around, I was greeted with an unexpected battery compartment. That’s right, just add 6 D batteries, and you can take this stylish fella out on the town.
Perhaps you can take it to the coffee shop while you work on your laptop? Use it as an entertainment device on your next flight? Or even better as musical accompaniment at your next romantic picnic?
If you don’t have any D batteries on hand, it also has a DC 9V adapter.
Overall, it’s a pretty below average piece of audio equipment, but its eighties style and seeing the Pierre Cardin name on it made it something I needed to learn a little more about.
So why does a stereo have the name of a famous fashion designer on it? During what years and where was it sold?
Pierre Cardin Branding Madness
Piere Cardin, who passed away in 2020, was initially a fashion designer. He started his fashion house in the early 1950s and would become famous over the next two decades for his futuristic and avant-garde style.
With fashion success, the brand extended itself successfully into cosmetics and perfumes in the sixties. Success with those two markets got the name out there, and soon the company started to license its name haphazardly. By the late 80s, they had over 800 licenses in 94 countries on products ranging from cigarettes to stereo systems.
It was just too much with very little quality control. Things peaked in 1988 when Pierre Cardin made a billion dollars, but quickly plummeted after that.
While the fashion component of the company continues to this day, it would never hit those peaks of profitability again, and it largely got out of the branding game.
When did they release the Pierre Cardin Stereo?
I didn’t wind up buying this stereo, doing so would violate the rules I have set out for myself on collecting, but I wish I had just to open it up and have a look around inside. My hope is that somewhere would give a clear idea of when this system was manufactured. Right now, all I have are decent guesses based on what I have been able to find in old print ads for related products.
In 1982, in its Colorado Springs store, Dave Cook was selling a portable Pierre Cardin AM/FM Stereo Cassette Player/Recorder for $99.95.
Based on this and the use of the “Environment” brand on cars between 1980-1982, combined with some classified ads I found from 1986 talking about “New” Pierre Cardin stereos for sale, I am going to say that this system started to be between 1982 and 1986.
The portable tape decks seemed widely available at the time. Although mostly sold at smaller electronic stores. I did find them mentioned in a few military publications, so perhaps these were also made available at stores on military bases.
Pierre Cardin and Setton
While Pierre Cardin would lend his name to this cheaper stereo, this was not the first time he had worked with stereo equipment. According to online sources, he worked with the Setton stereo brand. For example of his work with Setton, which I believe is much nicer than what you are seeing here, check out the Setton RS-660
Interesting finds are everywhere, and not everything needs to be valuable to be appreciated. I never owned a Pierre Cardin stereo, but to some people out there, this was their first sound system. If you are one of those people, or you just had a passing experience with one of these stereos, I would love to hear your story.