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.

He is showing no signs of doing so. During a lengthy interview, he rattled off dates, names and detailed directions to specific locations with what seemed like automatic recall.

Presuming a deal is reached with a new owner this year, Cardin intends to devote more time to his theater and art endeavors, which along with extensive travel have been constants throughout his life. As a young man in Paris in 1945, Cardin put his acting aspirations on ice to dabble in costume design for Jean Cocteau and other notables. He has managed to keep a hand in acting and even appeared opposite Jeanne Moreau in the 1975 film "Joanna Francesca."

These days, he is right at home in Lacoste in the south of France, where he owns what was once the Marquis de Sade's chateau and has purchased numerous properties, including the local bakery, cafe, hotel and art galleries. The enchanting village with only 400 residents is where he first connected with the Savannah College of Art and Design, which has a satellite campus there, and he has been instrumental in cultivating the artist community in Lacoste. Each summer they team up for tandem art and theatrical festivals.

"Food, fashion, music, art, films, theater — I like everything, you know," Cardin said.

As part of the events surrounding this summer's Beijing Olympic Games, Cardin will stage a production of "Marco Polo" at the National Center for the Performing Arts Opera House in collaboration with Marie-Claude Pietragalla and Julien Derouault. The designer was asked by the Chinese government to create something reflective of the French, since he was among "the first to go to China and believe in the country when it was not such an easy thing to do."

In November, Cardin staged a spectacular outdoor fashion show on a thin, white podium winding through the dunes of the Gobi Desert at Dunhuang.

His upcoming performance will debut Aug. 16 in China and will later tour seven cities in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Russia, where Cardin said he was a pioneer in that part of the world. In fact, he first visited Communist countries decades ago and even met with Fidel Castro on two occasions, "a very interesting, very knowledgeable and very pleasant man, but I don't like his politics."
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