Julie Verhoeven created the illustrations for the tents for Olympus Fashion Week.

<B>CARDIN CAPERS:</B> Could <B>Pierre Cardin</B> 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...

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.

This story first appeared in the September 7, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

OLYMPIAN JUMP: London Fashion Week is losing another big name this season — and this time the Olympics are to blame. After creating all the outfits for the opening and closing ceremonies in Athens — more than 6,000 — London-based designer Sophia Kokosalaki is pooped — and behind schedule with her spring collection. As a result, she will be showing in Paris rather than London. “She hasn’t had time to get her collection together yet for the London shows,” said a spokeswoman for the designer. As for the future, she added, “We’re not saying that Sophia will definitely return to London next season — we’ll see how it goes in Paris.”

SWIMMING IN DIAMONDS: Swimwear giant Gottex will have a fresh sparkle this season on the runway in more ways than one. Gideon Oberson, the Israeli designer who just took over as Gottex’s creative director, plans to unveil a one-of-kind suit dripping in $18 million worth of diamonds at the company’s show Wednesday night as he introduces his first collection for the brand. About 200 brilliant-shaped diamonds will surround a whopping 103-carat giant pear-shaped diamond, all of which are provided by jeweler Vivid Collection. The models also are slated to sport diamond jewelry galore from the firm.

NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND: Yeohlee has rounded up Elsa Klensch, Constance White, Christina Ha and Anna Anisimova to be among the artists, actresses, gallery owners and other creative types to model in her “Fashion Underground” show Thursday. Like the rest of the crowd, they will need MetroCards to get there: The event is being staged inside the 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue subway station.

DON’T JUST STAND THERE: After opting for quiet showroom appointments with its collection displayed on hangers, Ellen Tracy will return to the runway on Sept. 14 at Olympus Fashion Week for the first time in about four years. A spokeswoman said the Liz Claiborne-owned company, which originally had planned a walk-through presentation, made the decision on Friday because it believed the spring collection merited a full-fledged show.

MARKET CHIC: Gilles Dufour is the latest recruit in the trend for designers to create inexpensive fashion. The Paris-based Dufour has been signed by the French supermarket chain Monoprix to whip up a capsule collection that will hit stores in France late this year. Dufour described the looks as “fresh and young,” and said that the partnership might continue in the future. As reported, Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld is set to give disposable chic some high-fashion flavor with his hotly anticipated collection for Swedish fast-fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz, which will be unveiled in Paris on Sept. 17.

GOODBYE CALVIN, HELLO DIEGO: Eleven years after she set up the European press office for Calvin Klein in Milan, Noona Smith-Petersen will join the Tod’s Group as global director of corporate p.r. worldwide for all of the group’s brands: Tod’s, Hogan, Fay and Roger Vivier, starting in mid-October.

In her new post, Petersen, 42, will work side-by-side with Tod’s group chief, Diego Della Valle. The Danish-born blonde will oversee the day-to-day running of the press office and supervise special events. Della Valle has also tapped Carmen Borgonovo, the former accessories director at W and editor in chief of W Jewelry, to supervise Hogan’s fashion image.