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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.

As for his own abilities, Cardin said, "For me, my talent made the money, not the money made the name."

Of course, he can't consider his current status without glancing back at some of the risks he took in the past. Christian Dior, whom he met through a mutual friend, gave him his big break by telling him he could work for the house that Dior was starting in three months or join him working for Lucien Lelong, opting for the former. A few years later in 1950, Cardin said he passed up the chance to be the new artistic director at Chanel to build its North American business in order to start his own house. "I wanted to be first in my house — not second in someone else's house. It was a big risk," he said. "I felt the world would change and maybe ready-to-wear was the best way to go."

Cardin said he had a hunch that more women, even affluent, beautiful ones would choose to work as a way to be engaged in the world. Of course, that inkling was eventually realized by scores of women including Madame Hervé Alphand, the wife of the French ambassador during the Kennedy administration, who fixed her eyes on finding a job — and even spoke with Cardin about working for him — as soon as she returned from Washington.

"People said, 'Pierre Cardin, in two years he's finished.' And now I am the only one who is still in my own house," he said.

Despite the galaxy of products and businesses, the father of Space Age fashion views his own accomplishments in a more intangible way. "I'm proud of what I do — to realize a dream, to be independent, to be known by so many people around the world and to have built my freedom myself," he said. "Life has given me the chance to meet very important people and to build my own life. But you must respect the people."
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