THE MART'S BIG PREVIEW: The California Mart will host a cocktail party Tuesday, March 8, in its Fashion Theatre for designers, manufacturers and sales reps to fill them in on details of the revived "press week," set for Oct. 8 and 9. Mart executives will announce the show schedule and the criteria for participation in the shows at the event.

Now dubbed The California Collections Spring '95 Preview, the press show had been sponsored each fall since 1981 by the California Mart but was terminated in 1989 as a casualty of the economy.

The preview is timed to precede the Mart's busiest markets -- the Junior/Young Contemporary and International Swimwear and Activewear Market -- held the week of Oct. 9.

The two-day preview event will include a swimwear show, a Duo Collections show featuring men's and women's collections, and various California designer shows, all to be presented in a tent pitched in the Mart's parking lot. Mart officials also are reviving the California Designer of the Year Award and the California Rising Star Award, both to be presented at a black-tie gala during the press weekend.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR?: Saks Fifth Avenue doesn't seem thrilled with its new neighbor in Beverly Hills. This Saturday, Barneys New York opens next door to Saks on Wilshire Boulevard and will celebrate with a low-cost affair. It's doughnuts and coffee from 9 a.m. to noon. Store executives wanted to keep the crumbs off the carpets by having the party outside, in the Saks parking lot -- Barneys has an underground lot -- and reportedly, local Saks officials said that would be fine.

However, when Saks executives in New York got wind of the neighborly gesture, they told Barneys to take the party indoors. Sources said Saks claimed it had insurance concerns about a Barneys party being held on Saks property. Some, however, believe Saks didn't want the sun to shine on Barneys' Beverly Hills debut.

Meanwhile, Barneys officials said there will be plenty of galas and charity events at the store this fall to make up for Saturday's low-key opening. It's not a financial consideration, Barneys officials said. It's just a sense that the Jan. 17 earthquake ruined the mood to party.Saks had no comment.

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