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Menswear pioneer Cardin makes 90th birthday 'comeback'

  • 29 Jun 2012
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PARIS (AFP)
Pierre Cardin is the last active survivor of the great postwar French fashion houses

"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!"

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