By  on November 15, 2006

PARIS — Pierre Cardin was like a kid in a candy shop during a preview of the museum dedicated to his 60-year-long career. It opens to the public today.

The 83-year-old couturier rifled through a display cabinet jam-packed with accessories, trying on necklaces and hats while explaining the creative provenance of each.

"This one is from the Seventies, in plastic," he said, holding up a necklace of cascading puzzle-like pieces in front of his double-breasted navy blazer. "You were meant to wear it with a bodysuit leotard — nothing else. You put it on and — voilà — you were dressed. Pretty gutsy, no? I asked Cartier to make it for me and they told me I was crazy."

Cardin said the museum, located in a former garage in the northern Paris suburb of Saint Ouen, would be open three afternoons a week, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Scholars can visit by appointment.

More than 1,000 pieces are stocked in the archives, with about 140 women's and men's garments on view alongside a smattering of furniture and a roomful of accessories.

"Now that I'm coming to the end of my career, I want to show people what I've brought to fashion," explained Cardin of his motivation.

"I've never copied anyone," he continued. "Just to look at this [museum] is proof of that. It's difficult to have personality. Anyone can have taste. But not everyone can have a point of view.

"What's Chanel, for example?" Cardin asked in a rapid-fire monologue. "It's a tweed suit. And Yves Saint Laurent? What's he known for? The smoking suit? Marlene Dietrich wore smoking suits well before Saint Laurent did them.

"I was inspired by satellites. By lasers. By the moon. I looked into the future. I was never inspired by a woman's body. My dresses are like sculptures. I molded them and then I put a woman into it. It was more like architecture or art.

"As I look over all of these dresses here, I see a continuity of personality. It's all Cardin. It's all sculpture. It's art."

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