CARDIN CAPERS: Could Pierre Cardin finally be ready to part with his far-flung fashion business and its tangled web of licenses? Sources said the designer met last week in Paris with investment bankers to accelerate the process. Cardin has been trying to unload his vast licensing empire for several years. Italy’s Multipartners is among the firms leading the hunt, the sources said. But finding a buyer for his hundreds of licenses has been no easy feat. The highly secretive Cardin, 82, who insists on running every aspect of the business himself, also owns the Maxim restaurants, hotels and a theater in Paris.

UNDER THE BIG TOP: Olympus Fashion Week is paying homage to all the work that goes into the collections via the design of the tents in Bryant Park, which open on Wednesday. Olympus asked former Gibò designer Julie Verhoeven to create this season’s tent exteriors, street banners and other fashion week materials. Verhoeven worked with the advertising agency ink&co on the execution of the plans, which call for a mixed-media collage of images from the runway with Verhoeven’s illustrations of scantily clad models being made up or in fittings, a sewing machine and needle and thread.

HOT LAUNCH: Orv Madden, the founder of teen retailer Hot Topic, isn’t one to sit idle. After being retired for less than three years, the visionary who connected the dots between youth, music and fashion is planning to launch a chain of four stores by October, he said. “I think I’ve had enough rest,” explained Madden. He wouldn’t disclose details of the venture, but the company’s Web site, metroparkusa.com, describes Metropark as a “new breed of lifestyle retailer” working with contemporary designers and focusing on — what else? — music, fashion and art.

FASHION AHOY: New York Fashion Week doesn’t set float officially until Wednesday, but R&B temptress Monica plans to christen the festivities a little early by hosting the launch of Tamsen today at 4 p.m. at Chelsea Piers. The collection, designed by Mimi Wolfe with Sue Firestone, is inspired by the paintings of Sue’s husband, Robert W. Firestone, and the couple’s journeys aboard their 153-foot sailing yacht, Tamsen. Stylist Patty Wilson is organizing the looks in the show, which will feature prints taken from Firestone’s paintings.

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