Lacoste is an idyllic French village, full of Provençal allure, but, villagers say, its charms are under threat—ever since Pierre Cardin came to town. The Italian-born fashion designer has sparked a vitriolic feud that centres on Lacoste’s very identity: opponents say he’s gutting the town’s soul by transforming it into his own backcountry retreat; supporters say he’s bringing in much needed tourist dollars and employment.
The 89-year-old says he’s trying to create a “cultural Saint-Tropez.” Since his first purchase in 2001—the hilltop castle where the Marquis de Sade once hosted orgies—Cardin has sunk over US$30 million into Lacoste, staging festivals, rebuilding statues and buying up 22 properties on the town’s main drag, known derisively as “Cardin’s Champs Élysées.”
Simmering tensions recently bubbled over; protesters on tractors—some wielding pitchforks—angry over a proposed golf course, blockaded the opening of a musical Cardin had commissioned, forcing him to abandon his plans.
“Before he came, I used to have friends,” long-time resident Colette Truphemus recently told the BBC. “Now there’s nothing. No life, no friends. He has killed the village.”