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FASHION MYSTERY: Where is Jil Sander? And what is she up to? Curiosity is reaching a fever pitch as Jan. 31 approaches. That’s the day her noncompete agreement expires with Prada Group, which bought her company in 1999 and ousted her five months later. Sander no longer has control of her label, but she will soon be free to pursue fashion design — if she wants to. Theories abound, with some sources suggesting she’s sure to launch a new collection, while an equal number insist she’s enjoyed her free time and has no intentions of entangling herself in the tough fashion business. One Paris source has her launching a home collection. About the only thing for certain is that Sander’s talent for discretion remains formidable. She was actually in Paris during couture week, and is said to have dined with Azzedine Alaïa and friends.
OUT OF VOGUE: Miuccia Prada was there. Yohji Yamamoto was there. Sidney Toledano, the president of Christian Dior was there. But no one from American Vogue was invited to Azzedine Alaïa’s show at the close of Paris couture week Thursday. Alaïa could not be reached for comment, but it’s believed he scratched the title off his invitation list because it does not showcase his designs in the magazine. Sally Singer, fashion news/features director, and Hamish Bowles, European editor at large, who were covering couture for the magazine this week, were traveling and could not be reached for comment. But a Vogue spokesman offered: “This is Azzedine’s decision, and there’s nothing else to say about it.”
SKIS A CROWD: Maybe it’s time for the fashion industry to give up its obsession with winter skiing. First Donna Karan broke her knee, then Diane Von Furstenberg wiped out on the slopes. Now Buffy Birrittella, executive vice president of women’s design and advertising at Polo Ralph Lauren, has become the latest victim of a painful ski-related accident, breaking her femur while on the slopes in Utah a couple of weeks ago. Ever the trooper, Birrittella was able to get back to work quickly, though, thanks to her good-hearted boss, who dispatched his private plane to retrieve her.
CARTOON HERO: Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who collaborated with Marc Jacobs on spring accessories for Louis Vuitton, is expected at Vuitton’s men’s show Saturday night. But he’s not painting eyeballs or cherry blossoms on men’s suits. Rather, he’s in Paris to work with Jacobs on store windows to trumpet the arrival of the handbags and leather goods. The windows, bowing March 1 worldwide, will feature a short animated feature starring the three characters Murakami created using the shapes in Vuitton’s famous monogram. Jacobs identifies them as “flower hat man,” “onion head” and “panda bear.” Meanwhile, Murakami is also creating new artworks that reference his collaboration with Jacobs. The new works are slated to be unveiled at the Marianne Boesky gallery in New York April 10.
DOLL FACE: Barbie is getting a major makeover. About 100 fashion designers and jewelry houses, including John Galliano, Phoebe Philo from Chloé, Boucheron and Bulgari, have been asked to make over the iconic doll for a presentation that begins this April in Paris. The dolls will be sold at auction in December to raise funds for the French Red Cross.
DRESSING TOWN: At her friend chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s request, Norma Kamali has decked out the female wait staff at Town with convertible skirts and long-sleeve T-shirts designed to be worn a variety of ways. “I did it just because we’re friends and neighbors. It’s not a new career step for me,” Kamali said. “I love the food and go regularly. My friends are always asking how they can get in, but I can only call Geoffrey so many times.”
INDIANA JONES OFF-ROAD: Harrison Ford didn’t do much Thursday morning for the image of celebrities tooling around in SUVs in the city. With Calista Flockhart riding shotgun, he nearly clipped a pedestrian while taking a right on red on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.