FRENCH TIES: "How’s your stick?" Donna Karan asked Thursday night, clicking canes with her old pal Kal Ruttenstein, moments before he was decorated as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government. "That’s an amazing man," Karan said afterwards. Designers showed up in force for the beloved Bloomingdale’s fashion director, including Yohji Yamamoto, Marc Jacobs, Christian Lacroix and Giambattista Valli of Emanuel Ungaro. Fellow retailers and fashion executives by the dozen also paid their respects, with Yves Carcelle, head of LVMH’s fashion and leather goods businesses, planting a kiss on the top of Ruttenstein’s head. The official honor was bestowed by Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, who pinned the distinctive red pin onto the lapel of the Yves Saint Laurent suit Tom Ford had designed for the occasion. Then the indefatigable fashion force set off in his Cesare Paciotti sneakers to a dinner at Le Voltaire.

BLASS-TING OFF?: Balmain, which just bid farewell to its couturier Oscar de la Renta on Tuesday, already has its eye on a potential successor: Lars Nilsson, currently the collection designer at Bill Blass, sources said. But it seems that Nilsson has not yet been approached. "I haven’t even thought about that. I have absolutely no idea what their plans are," Nilsson said Thursday. "[Balmain] is a beautiful house with an amazing history, but I have no idea about that." Stay tuned.

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