FIFTH AVENUE SHOWDOWN: Saks Fifth Avenue and Henri Bendel are going head-to-head in a war to unearth fashion’s next big designer. Saks announced in an advertisement in WWD on Thursday that it will hold "Open See Days" for women’s apparel and accessories designers around the country, beginning Wednesday in New York, which ruffled the feathers of the folks over at Bendel’s, considering the store’s long-standing tradition of holding similarly titled events that helped give an early start to a lot of today’s big designers, like Anna Sui."Geraldine Stutz [Bendel’s former president] originated that term back in the Seventies," volleyed Ed Burstell, Bendel’s vice president and general manager, noting the store’s next open call will be held in Los Angeles in August. "Everyone’s entitled to try to find a new designer, but this is done exactly the same as ours, right down to the name. They could have at least called it something else."A spokesman for Saks, which is hosting a five-city tour, spiked back, "Well, why didn’t they copyright it? Because you can’t copyright the word ‘beauty pageant,’ either. We’re calling it what it is." He also said Saks has been holding open calls for "a long time, too, but we just have not capitalized on the press opportunity. We’re going to make this the ‘American Idol’ of the fashion world."Speaking of publicity, Saks has been welcoming the spotlight quite a bit lately, with Lil’ Kim dragging a camera crew into the store as part of her appearance on the upcoming series "Livin’ Large" and Jennifer Lopez filming several scenes of "The Chambermaid" there.And as for the Lopez look, all the pictures in the tabloids of J.Lo filming "The Chambermaid" last week made a big deal of her Harry Winston jewels, but did not credit her dress. Even though it looks a bit like the Versace number she wore to the Academy Awards, Lopez is decked out in Bob Mackie, from a couple of seasons back.AU REVOIR?: LVMH is searching for a new Paris-based director of communications for Céline. While it could not be learned at press time whether David Au, its international director, had already left the brand, sources said his departure is a sign of bigger executive changes to come.HERE’S TO YOU: The people who run Hearst seem to be firmly behind Harper’s Bazaar, despite the ever-swirling rumors about its imminent demise. Cathleen Black, Hearst president, and Michael Clinton, executive vice president, chief marketing officer and publishing director, convened Bazaar staffers last Wednesday for a champagne toast in the Hearst courtyard. Black was said to congratulate Bazaar on its increase in ad pages as well as newsstand sales, and spoke of "Bazaar’s iconic status" in the Hearst fold. According to Media Industry Newsletter, Bazaar’s August ad pages rose 4 percent from August 2001, although year-to-date ad pages are down 21.75 percent from last year.BUT DO THEY ACTUALLY EAT CHOCOLATE?: This fall, Giorgio Armani's avid fashionistas will be tempted in more ways than one by the designer's latest productions. On Sept. 15, Armani will open an Armani Dolci space in his Via Manzoni megastore in Milan: a corner where pralines and chocolates will be a feast for the eyes …and the palates. Pralines with the Armani 'A' will be wrapped in Japanese paper and pearl-gray boxes, sealed with a flower kept fresh in its own vial of water. Preserves, exotic teas and coffees will complete the selection. Let's hope it has sweeter success than the ill-fated Bill Blass candy venture many years ago.

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