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Cardin showcases 'Light Palace' project in China
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 31, 2012

Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin is in Beijing this weekend to present his 240-metre-high edifice "Light Palace" planned near Venice and which he hopes to reproduce in China.

The Palais Lumiere will be made up of three glass towers rising 780 feet high and linked by six giant discs visible from the outside and holding gardens, lakes and swimming pools.

Inside will be ten restaurants, 1,500 apartments, 50 lifts, cinemas, conference rooms, theatres, shops, a helicopter landing pad and a university, said the feisty 89-year-old.

And dotted around the building at ground level will be some signature Cardin "mushroom houses."

The futuristic structure, "inspired by three flower stems in a bouquet," also aspires to be "eco-sustainable", using photovoltaic and wind power energy systems, and special glass that eliminates the greenhouse effect.

Cardin will present his concept for the Palais Lumiere in China on Sunday, marking the event with a fashion show he has organised at the Olympic swimming pool in Beijing.

Construction of the Palais Lumiere, billed to cost about 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion), is due to start in Italy in September. "The project has been accepted. It will take four to five years," Cardin said.

"I tried to do it near Paris but it didn't work: where could I find 50 hectares of land right in the centre? Even Seguin island (on the Seine river) is too small," he said.

Cardin is a familiar name in Asia. In 2009 he sold 32 textile and accessory licences in China to Jiangsheng Trading Company and Cardanro for 200 million euros -- a mark of the cachet of his name.

During the week the designer of Italian origin visited Hainan island in the South China Sea for "negotiations" to construct a replica Palais Lumiere in China.

Other discussions are also taking place in southeastern Xiamen and Qingdao in the east, those close to Cardin said.

"I have always been drawn to China, for its culture of the past, its impressive politics that took me by surprise," Cardin said.

A fourth restaurant in his Maxim's chain has opened in Hefei, the provincial capital of Anhui in the east. The other three outlets are in Beijing and Shanghai, where the purchasing power of the population is higher.

"As I see it, luxury should not only be for the rich, for the privileged, but also for the masses," Cardin said.

In May 2011 Cardin announced he was ready to sell his label, as long as he retained artistic control -- and received the one billion euros he insists the company is worth. He is still looking for a buyer.

"Who will take over? My family, the people I love?" he asked. "I want to help the buyers, not to get rid of it but so as not to wait for death -- which is coming up so fast."

During a career that has spanned more than six decades, Cardin has been a trailblazer -- he was one of the first designers to bring Western style to Asia and one of the first to develop brand licensing.

His name now adorns hundreds of products worldwide from shirts to bottled water to furniture.

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