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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.

Cardin recalled arranging for a visa to visit Russia in 1963 through the first Russian ambassador in Paris. "I told him, 'You know I'm not going because I'm a Communist, I'm a capitalist. I don't want to have any problems.' He said, 'You know there are so many Communists around the world that one more or one less doesn't really matter.'"

The designer said he started traveling at the age of 17 and has never stopped, having visited 120 countries. He has made 52 trips to Japan alone, the first of which occurred in 1957. Since 1991, he has served as peace ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and has met with many prime ministers, presidents and diplomats along the way. "When I talk, I can say what I say because I was there. I like to meet people, to have relations and to have life. I try to make peace between one country and another."

His duties on each visit also involve hosting flag-raising ceremonies surrounded by 20 children holding each other's hands. Afterwards, he tries to impress upon them his message of brotherhood. "I tell them, it doesn't matter if you were born black or white. Everything is different in life. Of course, the trees, the plants, the animals are not the same. But the reason you are in the world is to live together," he said. "That is my mission.

"Wherever I work, I try to take it for what it is — the life, the work, the country, the people, the climate but without the politics. I try to think of the people themselves. You must try to understand when you go somewhere why the people are poor or old or act a certain way."

Cardin was more cut-and-dried about American fashion. He said, "It's more commercial. But who buys the clothes? People. You can dream, of course, but poor people can't buy those clothes. If you'd like to build your name, whether you are a designer, writer, musician or artist, people have to be able to recognize your style before they see the name. To only have beautiful clothes is not enough,...To copy is not talent, it's taste."
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