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THE LOWDOWN: Fast-fashion shifted into high gear when French fashion group Vivarte opened 24 discount clothing stores last week. Under the banner Parti-Prix, which roughly translates to “Great Buys,” the stores, located on the outskirts of major French cities, moved into retail space once occupied by other chains within the Vivarte group, which include Andre, La Halle, Caroll and Kookai. Parti-Prix will also benefit from the group’s logistic platforms and store management. Aiming to be the cheapest store on the French clothing market, the 7,500-square-foot Parti-Prix units carry basic items — T-shirts, underwear, socks and pajamas — for men, women, and children for an average price of $4, converted from the euro at current exchange. Vivarte, formerly known as Groupe Andre, has undergone major changes since the beginning of the year, when financier Nathaniel Rothschild arrived as president. — Emilie Marsh

This story first appeared in the August 25, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

FASHION IN MOTION: Among the sea of red buses in London, a lilac one stands out like a beacon. The London Fashion Bus — a mobile boutique stocking designs by upcoming U.K. talent — is hard to miss given its color and Union Jack markings. The brainchild of London retailer Barry Laden, the bus sells designs from The Laden Showroom, a shop he set up on London’s Brick Lane in 1999, and comes complete with changing rooms and a waiting room. “People were constantly calling to ask if the showroom would be expanding nationwide,” Laden said. “We wanted to reach more people, but felt it would be against our ethos to simply become another high street shop.” Everything on sale is handmade, and designers — Nicki Pumpkin, Candice Miller, Sonia Ay Yeung and Quantum — rarely produce more than 40 of each design. Prices range from $25 and $130. The bus, which took to the London streets last week, may travel nationwide — and possibly abroad. “A tour of the U.S. would be fun,” Laden said. “We are looking into the franchise route, which would allow us to reach far more people and places.” — Eve Thomas

STAR TREATMENT: Russia has a rich reputation for its avant-garde art. Now it’s catching up in the fashion department. Come Sept. 3, St. Petersburg will become home to the country’s first freestanding store selling the collections of Comme des Garçons. The store is called Nameless, with a star symbol demarcating the 800-square-foot shop on Suvorovsky Prospekt, and is owned by Sophia Tchernova, who also owns franchises for Givenchy, Charles Jourdan and Seraphin in Russia. Julia Philoppova, a spokeswoman for all the boutiques, said tastes in Russia are rapidly evolving from “tacky” to “more intellectual,” exemplified by Kawakubo’s experimental approach. The design of the store, overseen by Kawakubo, incorporates familiar Comme des Garçons elements, including raw concrete, polished stainless steel and red plastic. On the racks will be all the Comme lines available in Europe, including those by Kawakubo protégé Junya Watanabe. — Miles Socha