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Caviar, Cashmere and Comfort

NEW YORK — The official gift shopping season doesn’t get under way until Thanksgiving, but the fashion industry, as always, works at least a month in advance.<br><br>Several designers stopped by Saks Fifth Avenue Thursday night to grab a...

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NEW YORK — The official gift shopping season doesn’t get under way until Thanksgiving, but the fashion industry, as always, works at least a month in advance.

Several designers stopped by Saks Fifth Avenue Thursday night to grab a copy of “Bill Blass: An American Designer,” the coffee table book put out by Abrams to coincide with the opening of the Blass exhibit at Indiana University. Michael Vollbracht and Helen O’Hagan, two of its editors, signed copies for guests, including the socialites Casey Ribicoff, Duane Hampton and Annette de la Renta. Ribicoff confided she had already bought about 50 copies and plans to send them as holiday gifts.

“I also had greeting cards printed up of my pictures from the book,” she said of a red, yellow and black sequined jacket that gets its own spread in the $65 book. “I love that it says ‘The Casey Ribicoff Collection.’”

Michael Kors also bought a copy, but the purchase was destined for his own collection, since he’s been a lifelong fan of Blass and Vollbracht.

“Michael has been one of my favorite illustrators and designers,” Kors said. “And he did a portrait of me for my birthday this year that I just love.”

Meanwhile, the mutual admiration society didn’t stop there. Betsey Johnson showed up at a surprise party for Nicole Miller at Butter Wednesday night to celebrate Miller’s 20 years in business. For the occasion, Johnson stitched up a T-shirt that said “Betsey loves Nicole.” And Hermès toasted its clientele Monday night by staging a men’s runway show in Chelsea with designer Veronique Nichanian and New York personalities like Charlie Ruger, Jean-Marc Houmard, Vikram Chatwal and Sean McPherson as models.

Elsewhere, Anne Klein celebrated the opening of its Anne Klein New York shop on Bloomingdale’s third floor Thursday night, where designer Charles Nolan and model Bridget Hall hosted a benefit for the The Leary Firefighters Foundation, raising $10,000 for the fund, championed by comedian Denis Leary. Later that night, Donna Karan launched her Black Cashmere fragrance with Vanity Fair, with a tie-in party for the kickoff of the magazine’s (In Concert) Series that benefits the Step Up Foundation.

Karan cleared out the main level of her Madison Avenue flagship and turned it into a black-lit disco, with mounds of caviar piled to heights not seen since the Eighties. A roster of heavy-hitting celebrities — Anjelica Huston, Natalie Portman, Brooke Shields and Bernadette Peters — were all packed so closely that, at one point, Karan was pressed to come up with a reason for what it was all about.

“It’s all about touching people,” she said. “Black Cashmere can be put all over your body — you can surround yourself.”

The party, planned to end at midnight, rattled on until 2 a.m., after Ron Perlman and Ellen Barkin turned up, and things only got tighter when Shields, Huston and her husband, artist Robert Graham, planted themselves on the store’s already precarious stairwell.

“The best thing about my dress is that it’s comfortable,” said Huston of her chocolate cashmere Karan gown. “It’s a comfy, cashmerey thing, which is extremely meaningful to me these days.”

Portman looked less content, snaking her way through the crowd, but that could have been because she was bundled up in a child’s coat.

“I bought it at a French children’s store,” she said, and burst out laughing.

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