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Cavalli Closing In on Rodeo Drive

BEVERLY HILLS -- Roberto Cavalli has never been a man of restraint, whether it's in his over-the-top signature designs or in the way he courts business.<P>So it seemed perfectly natural following his fashion show at Neiman Marcus here last Thursday...

BEVERLY HILLS — Roberto Cavalli has never been a man of restraint, whether it’s in his over-the-top signature designs or in the way he courts business.

So it seemed perfectly natural following his fashion show at Neiman Marcus here last Thursday when the terminally tan Italian broke out into full disco moves in the middle of a cocktail party surrounded by a bevy of babes including Carmen Electra.

Cavalli was feeling especially celebratory because he said he’s closer to adding his fourth retail address — this one on coveted Rodeo Drive.

“It’s time now,” he said earlier that afternoon, between appointments with real estate agents. “I was afraid about the L.A. market, because it’s so expensive — I’m talking Rodeo. New York [real estate] is less expensive. It’s unbelievable.”

Nor will he budge on the location, even if areas such as tony Sunset Plaza could suit his clientele just as well. “I have to be on Rodeo. Everyone says, `Roberto, what do you care? With your name, you can be where you like.’ But I don’t want to open a store just for selling,” he said between drags of a brown-papered cigarette. “There are things we do for ourselves in life sometimes, and this would be just for me.”

Cavalli is “looking for a big space” to house his world: adult, children’s, home and fragrance. He also said he’s considering locations in Denver and in South Coast Plaza, the uber-mall an hour south of Los Angeles in Costa Mesa.

At the Neiman’s party, the second floor of the Wilshire Boulevard flagship had been cleared out and transformed into an ornately appointed den filled with Italian foods and gilded furnishings, including a pillow-covered bed — all in order to present Cavalli’s men’s and women’s fall 2002 collections to about 300 of his Angeleno fans.

“A lot of dead animals went into those coats,” smirked actress Thora Birch, poured into a bias Cavalli dress, after the runway show. “Don’t get me wrong, they look great. But I kind of have a problem with that.”

She was in the minority. One guest after another, famous and not, gushed over the Italian designer’s fall collection choices of furs, skins and other luxe fabrics. “I’ve got to get me some of that,” cooed soul singer Macy Gray about the headier of the furry coats. Actors Monet Mazur, Bai Ling, Christian Slater and Jennifer Gimenez were among the guests.

Top sellers included a long shearling and leather coat trimmed in fox retailing for $5,955; a shorter, multi-colored printed leather jacket, also with a fox collar, for $4,995; a printed leather shirt at $2,015; and a halter dress patched with mesh leather pieces at $2,900.

The 36-hour stop in Beverly Hills followed a short visit to Neiman Marcus San Francisco, where Cavalli treated some 350 guests to mostly the men’s collection, which will launch there in August. He returned to Milan Friday to present his men’s line.”