Feb 26, 2010 12:00AM

Pierre Cardin: Fashion Ultimate Autocrat

Pierre Cardin is the Godfather of the modern fashion industry. The first fashion designer to stamp his name and logo all over his clothes, Cardin has built a billion dollar empire upon the space age chic that he pioneered way back in the 1960s. Today that brand appears on everything from fashion to fish. But has the designer, who currently celebrates his 60th anniversary in the biz, betrayed the fashion industry's golden rule of exclusivity? Ladies and Gentlemen, please prepare to meet fashion's ultimate autocrat: Pierre Cardin, Le Roi Luna.

I'm not sure whether it's last night's onion soup, with its thick crust of cholesterol-soaked cheese, or the steak frites that is making me feel so ill this morning, because when I arrive at Pierre Cardin's head office, just around the corner from his Paris boutique on the Rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, I am green with nausea. It doesn't help that his PA, a highly-strung woman as small and as tremulous as a sparrow, is frantic: Monsieur Cardin is nowhere to be seen.

But who could blame Cardin for having a lay-in? After all, he is in his eighties, and has spent his lifetime building an empire that stretches from haute couture to sardines, from the Mid West to the Far East, without having to borrow a single Franc; an empire that in 2000 had an estimated turnover of