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PARIS — He may be 86, but Pierre Cardin is hardly scaling back his energetic schedule.
The Space Age couturier has opened a furniture shop on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré here that showcases a raft of recent designs (there are buffets inspired by beetles, a huge lamp formed like a bird of paradise and a desk that resembles a scorpion) alongside colorful lacquered vintage pieces from the Sixties and Seventies.
The boutique, across the street from the French presidential mansion, is the first of 50 similar furniture shops Cardin said he hopes to open in coming years. The next Cardin furniture shop is expected to bow in Geneva in 2009.
Meanwhile, Cardin is financing Paris auctioneer Remy Le Fur’s business, making the designer the most recent Paris fashion personality to invest in the auction business. Yves Saint Laurent dean Pierre Bergé founded his own auction house a few years back, and François Pinault, whose Artemis family holding company controls Gucci Group, owns Christie’s.
But that’s not all. This summer Cardin will open three hotels in Lacoste, the southern French village where he hosts a classical music festival every year, as well as a new restaurant on the town’s main square that will be called Café Bleu.
“I can’t help being active,” said Cardin as he toured his new furniture shop. “I don’t have anything to prove. I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Except sell his business. Cardin has been quietly fielding offers to buy his far-flung operations (there may be as many as 1,000 licensing agreements between his fashion and Maxim’s restaurant businesses) for the last couple of years.
“This morning I had an offer,” he confided, suggesting the potential investors had promised to pay him a billion euros, or $1.58 billion at current exchange, to buy his empire. “I know what I’m worth. A billion euros isn’t enough.
“If you calculate all of the products and all of the countries, my value is inestimable,” he continued, revealing that hours earlier he had signed a license for socks and bathing suits for Russia and Eastern Europe.
“There are socks, shoes, ties, underwear, sunglasses, shirts, trousers, furniture, food….The price is colossal. My force is that I don’t need to sell. I’m completely self-financed. I have a name that is magic.”
Cardin said he still climbs the stairs to his atelier every day when he is in Paris to design clothes for “at least two hours.”
“I even do hats,” he said. “It’s my drug [to design dresses].”
With renewed market appreciation for his furniture — vintage Cardin pieces have been showing up more and more in dealers’ windows — the designer said he felt reinspired to let his creative juices flow. His new collection is his first from scratch in years. “I’ve been doing furniture for 50 years and I still have ideas,” he said. He pointed to a wall sculpture in colorful organic forms that doubles as a heater. “No one has ever done that,” he claimed. “Lately I’ve been inspired by ecology, butterflies, insects. I’ve used a lot of color, because life is color.
“My furniture used to be considered provocative,” he continued. “But today people like it and say that I’m a very important designer.”
This summer, Cardin will continue his ever-busy schedule. Chinese officials have invited him to stage a musical production in Beijing in advance of the Olympic Games this summer. The musical’s subject will be Marco Polo and will feature Maire-Claude Pietragalla’s troupe of contemporary dancers.
In the meantime, Cardin has been honored with a rose named after him. It will be unveiled next month during the annual Rose Festival at the Royal Abbey of Chaalis, just north of Paris.