Cardin stitches €1bn price tag on to global fashion empire

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The Independent Online

Pierre Cardin boasts that he has never been forced to hold a sale in 60 years as a fashion entrepreneur.

But yesterday the French couturier, 88, the inventor of unisex fashions and the first designer to pioneer ready-to-wear clothes, hung out the "Sale" sign on his whole business empire. Roughly €1bn (£900m) would be the right price, he told The Wall Street Journal, so long as he could remain as creative director.

"I want to sell it now," Mr Cardin told the newspaper. "I know I won't be here in a few years and the business needs to continue."

This is not the first time that Mr Cardin, an Italian immigrant, has tried to sell his fashion and franchising empire, which includes 400 "partners" around the world that are licensed to use the Cardin name on thousands of products from trousers to chairs. He has dropped several previous hints that he wants to sell out. His last quoted price, €500m, in 2005, attracted little interest.

Yesterday's announcement may have been intended to test the commercial waters after the takeover of the Italian jeweller Bulgari by the French luxury goods giant LVMH in March.

Mr Cardin, who is unmarried and has no heir, told the WSJ that he wanted to ensure the survival of his company, but was not yet ready to put down his scissors.

Asked where the €1bn valuation came from, he said: "One thousand products, 100 countries, that's how it calculates. It's nothing."

Mr Cardin entered the world of fashion via the theatre. He worked with the playwright, poet and artist Jean Cocteau, among others, before joining Christian Dior and helping to create the New Look in the 1940s. He set up his own label in 1950 and pioneered the use of synthetic materials, unisex designs and a space-age look.

He was the first couturier to see the commercial potential for ready-to-wear designer clothes and the first to license his name to hundreds of other products. Other fashion houses copied his model but have, in recent years, tended to limit the number of products to which they lend their name. Mr Cardin has sometimes been criticised for "devaluing" his own brand, and the whole industry, by signing hundreds of contracts for thousands of products.