Menswear pioneer Cardin makes 90th birthday 'comeback'

Back in 1958 Pierre Cardin signed up a battalion of students for Paris' first ever men's catwalk show. As he prepares for a comeback show on Sunday, the eve of his 90th birthday, the style veteran thinks he still has a lot to offer modern man.

The last active survivor of the great postwar French fashion houses, the Italian-born Cardin is today sole owner of a sprawling luxury empire, but his catwalk shows are few and far between, his last in Paris a women's line in 2010.

"This is a comeback for me, and it's a great pleasure," he told AFP in an interview. "I hadn't shown a man's line in Paris for a very long time. It's a chance to present my style, my personality, what made my name."

"Here is my modern man," the white-haired designer said as he showed off one of Sunday's looks in his Paris office, a black felt jacket with sleeves cut very short, faithful to the space-age theme Cardin has mined on and off since the 1960s.

"Women show off their legs, so I show off men's muscular arms," he explained. "It looks like nothing else, don't you agree? And it's wearable."

Putting on Paris' first menswear fashion show back in the 1950s, before the advent of male models required some lateral thinking.

"I rang up the university deans across Paris -- science, maths, philosophy, medicine -- and asked them to send me some students," he recalled.

"Around 100 turned up. And the show was a triumph," he said. "At the time, some people frowned at seeing a couturier in men's fashion -- but now everyone is in on the game."

Be it branching into men's fashion or ready-to-wear, brand licensing or pushing into Asian markets, which he was first to do a half-century ago, Cardin blazed a trail that many of his contemporaries have since rushed down.

Yet he holds an odd place in the French fashion world, where his relaxed -- even cocky -- attitude towards licensing his name and making money is seen as somehow incompatible with an artist's calling.

"There are a lot of great fortunes out there, but mine is one that I earned through creativity, not betting on horses or the stock-exchange," Cardin said of his personal wealth, estimated in 2009 at 310 million euros ($385 million).

"What I do, I do with passion," he said, showing off an article about his latest grand design, a 2.5-billion-euro futuristic skyscraper called the Palace of Light in his native Venice.

Cardin, who dreamed up the tower together with his architect nephew Rodrigo Basilicati, will lay the first symbolic stone on September 24, with the target of delivering the project in time for the 2015 Universal Exhibition in Milan.

"This is my last great project -- for now at least. Because I have to admit I am getting on in age."

"You see when I make sunglasses they look like 'Pierre Cardin' and no one else. The same goes for my skyscraper."

And when it comes to selling Cardin-stamped bath towels or cigarettes?

"Ah, that's commerce, that's something else altogether," he quips back.

For the past two years Cardin's vast empire has been up for sale, but he has yet to find a buyer willing to match his asking price of one billion euros.

"I have had a lot of offers, but when it came to setting a figure I always said no in the end. If you want to buy me, you have pay the right price."

While he can be disarmingly immodest, famously boasting he could dine in his restaurant before catching a show at his own theatre and sleeping in his own hotel, he says his feet are still on the ground.

"I have always been very ambitious. But I am not vain," he insisted.

In fairness, despite the mammoth scale of his business empire -- 800 licensed products across 122 countries -- Cardin's office, which sits above his sole Paris clothing store, is not your typical business tycoon's den.

Wildly messy, the furniture past its best, the room is chock-a-block with old magazines, press clippings, books and paintings, piled thickly on his desk and spilling out of drawers and off shelves.

He fondly shows off a sketchbook signed by Dior. He was the couturier's very first employee, joining him in 1946, before striking out on his own three years later.

"This is where I live. This is my life," he said, thumbing through pictures of himself with Nelson Mandela or Fidel Castro, on the front page of Time magazine in 1968, or Elle from 1973.

"Forty pages for the Cardin special edition at the time -- isn't that something?" he said, rummaging through the archives of his life, showing off a restored chateau here, a line of designer furniture there.

He could go on for hours -- but there is one thing Cardin does not want to mention: turning 90 on Monday.

"Oh, no! Let's not talk about that. Or I'll have to throw you out!" he jokes. "Birthdays are for the young. I have no need for gifts. I am getting an extra year, and that is quite enough!"

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel
    Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel

    The $150,000 pearl-studded, custom-made Calvin Klein dress worn by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o at this year's Academy Awards has been stolen, police said on Thursday. The gown, embellished with 6,000 natural white pearls, was stolen from Nyong'o's room at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, during the day on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in West Hollywood said. "Ms Nyong'o was not in the room at the time of the theft," Deputy John Mitchell …

  • South Korea decriminalises adultery, condom shares soar
    South Korea decriminalises adultery, condom shares soar

    South Korea's Constitutional Court on Thursday struck down a controversial adultery law which for more than 60 years had criminalised extra-marital sex and jailed violators for up to two years. The decision saw shares in the South Korean firm Unidus Corp., one of the world's largest condom manufacturers, soar by the daily limit of 15 percent on the local stock exchange. "Even if adultery should be condemned as immoral, state power should not intervene in individuals' private lives," said …

  • US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians
    US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians

    The US-led coalition has carried out air strikes against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria, where the jihadists have launched a new offensive and kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians. The raids on Thursday struck areas around the town of Tal Tamr in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving information on possible casualties. The town remains under the control of Kurdish forces, but at least 10 surrounding villages have been seized by IS, along …

  • U.S. flies most advanced surveillance plane from Philippines

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - The United States has begun flying its most advanced surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, out of the Philippines for patrols over the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Thursday, acknowledging the flights for the first time. The United States, the Philippines' oldest and closest ally, has promised to share "real time" information on what is happening in Philippine waters as China steps up its activities in the South China Sea. China claims most of …

  • Militants abduct more Christians, smash ancient artifacts
    Militants abduct more Christians, smash ancient artifacts

    BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State militants seized more Christians from their homes in northeastern Syria in the past three days, bringing the total number abducted by the extremist group to over 220, activists said Thursday. …

  • IS executioner 'Jihadi John' named as London graduate
    IS executioner 'Jihadi John' named as London graduate

    "Jihadi John", the masked Islamic State group militant believed responsible for beheading of at least five Western hostages, has been named as Kuwaiti-born computing graduate Mohammed Emwazi from London. "Jihadi John", nicknamed after Beatle John Lennon due to his British accent, is believed to be responsible for the murders of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig. …

  • Purisima denies endorsing successor
    Purisima denies endorsing successor

    Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima denied reports that he has been urging President Aquino to appoint his protegé as the new police chief. “Contrary to news reports, PDG Alan La Madrid Purisima is not in any position to recommend and has not in fact recommended anyone to the President for appointment as next chief of the PNP,” his lawyer Kristoffer James Purisima said yesterday. Sources said that Purisima may have resigned but he reportedly remains …

  • National Geographic 'Afghan girl' in Pakistan papers probe
    National Geographic 'Afghan girl' in Pakistan papers probe

    Pakistani officials are investigating after the famous green-eyed "Afghan girl" immortalised in a 1985 National Geographic magazine cover was found living in the country on fraudulent identity papers. The haunting image of the then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, taken in a refugee camp by photographer Steve McCurry, became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history. Now Pakistani officials say that Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in the northwestern city of Peshawar in April …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options