Pierre Cardin - from the catwalk to the warpath

Fashion designer Pierre Cardin has bought up houses in an idyllic French village and turned it into a 'cultural St Tropez'. The locals are not happy. Rob Hastings reports

He may have fashioned a career out of creating beautiful things, but when it comes to spats with his neighbours the clothes designer Pierre Cardin is not afraid to turn ugly.

It is a decade since the Parisian master of haute couture bought the Provençal castle that once belonged to the Marquis de Sade, and delighted in the chateau's views over the Luberon valley.

For some of the villagers living beneath the castle in the hillside cottages of Lacoste, however, his residence has been less pleasurable.

They have been busy telling anyone who will listen that his campaign to turn their small scattering of buildings into a "cultural St Tropez" may have opened cafés and brought in tourists, but has also turned their community into an empty, gentrified shell.

Now Cardin has taken a bitter swipe at what he sees as their ungrateful complaints.

"Personally I pay no attention to what the people say. They are just jealous," he said in a television interview this weekend. "After all, what have they ever done for Lacoste? Absolutely nothing."

The locals say that, besides the castle, Cardin has bought up 22 other properties in the village – some of which he has turned into art galleries – leaving those who are left with only memories of the friends and the quiet, idyllic rural community that once called those buildings home. Cardin, whose designs have a distinctive, avante-garde style, has also installed a variety of expensive works of art in the village. The film star John Malkovich owns a vineyard in the valley below.

It appears the villagers' refusal to acknowledge the benefits of Cardin's investment, which has brought an annual arts festival and plenty of new business to Lacoste, is wearing the millionaire's patience increasingly thin – not that he has any regrets.

"I buy the house because the place is extraordinary," he told the BBC. "You can see it's one of the best situations in the Luberon." The resentment has been brewing for some time, last spilling over two years ago when Cardin outlined his grand vision for the area.

"I can't force people to sell me their homes," he said. "They sell because they want to sell. I plan to make this village into a cultural St Tropez, without its showbiz side. I want to restore its authentic glamour, its truth."

That does not hold much sway with the villagers, one of whom told The Independent at the time: "As far as he is concerned, we are all 'les petits gens', the little people. He regards himself as a kind of feudal seigneur. No one else's opinion matters."

Though it is of little solace to the modern-day residents of Lacoste, the current conflict between the villagers and the owner of the castle overlooking them is of little in comparison to that inflicted on their forebears by the Marquis de Sade. The 18th-century aristocratic author, so famous for his sexual deviance and perversion that his name became synonymous with taking pleasure at witnessing others in pain, would abuse young servants recruited from the local area for his gratification. The Marquis' writings, such as 120 Days of Sodom, are still officially banned.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
John Terry puts Chelsea ahead
football
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David performs in his play ‘Fish in the Dark'
theatreFish in the Dark has already generated a record $14.5m in advance ticket sales
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tvReview: Too often The Casual Vacancy resembled a jumble of deleted scenes from Hot Fuzz
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
news
Arts and Entertainment
Jemima West in Channel 4's Indian Summers (Joss Barratt/Channel 4)
tvReview: More questions and plot twists keep viewers guessing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003