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Cardin Talks People and Passions

Oddly enough, Pierre Cardin found himself sitting last week at the same East 57th Street address where he had a New York office and apartment more than 50 years ago.

Pierre Cardin

Pierre Cardin

Photo By WWD Staff

Oddly enough, Pierre Cardin found himself sitting last week at the same East 57th Street address where he had a New York office and apartment more than 50 years ago.

"The building has changed, now it's the Four Seasons," the designer said dryly.

Though it wasn't his intention, the 54-story modern hotel seemed to be an appropriate setting to get up-to-speed about the latest developments in his towering business. Despite having 900 licenses in his global empire, Cardin showed his shrewd financial sense when a waiter asked if he might like some water. "No, thank you. Your water is too expensive," he said good-humoredly — more than once.

For the past few years, the 86-year-old Cardin has been equally vocal about his willingness to sell his company, with the asking price now resting at $1.2 billion. Asked about any recent talks, he only became more energized, bolting upright and explaining how most of the interest is from bankers in China and Saudi Arabia "where things are happening, not too much from America," he said. "I'm selling my business but at the same time it is my name."

That's cause for separation anxiety for someone who once said, "I have a name, I have to take advantage of it."

And so he has. "No one in the world has so many licenses — women's, children's, men's," he said, looking around the Four Seasons. "Glasses, forks, tables, chairs, lamps, curtains, watches, ties..."

Beyond the apparel, accessories and what some consider to be a garish number of licenses that even includes food products, Cardin has plenty of other business pursuits, including Maxim's restaurants, hotels, art galleries and four theaters, and this month acquired a Paris auction house. In September, he plans to unveil a new furniture collection during Maison & Objet in Paris. His various enterprises are said to indirectly employ 200,000 people.

"I'm an old man, but I don't feel like an old man. I want to do something new, I want to continue. I don't need clothes — I am so rich — to stay in life. For what? I want to improve myself. I do not want to live for eating. Isn't that what you [are supposed to] expect from life when you are old — dinner parties and only sleeping?"
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