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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.
NASTY AND NICE: Yves Saint Laurent failed to make an appearance, but his entourage and a bevy of devotees turned up at Colette Wednesday night to fete the re-edition of YSL’s legendary comic book, “Nasty Lulu.” The party continued later at Regine’s disco, which Pierre Bergé remembers well. “I remember the old days when we would go out every night,” he said. “We used to paint the town red.” Saint Laurent muse Loulou de la Falaise, however, wasn’t walking down memory lane. “We’ve been so busy packing up at the house,” she said, referring to the closing of the couture house after Saint Laurent’s retirement. “But I’m not sad. Everyone thinks we’re sad. It’s good to remember all the good times. But there’s so much still ahead.” To wit: Bergé said he’s creating a foundation devoted to Jean Cocteau slated to open in 2004 an hour south of Paris in Milly La Foret. “It will be an artists’ retreat as well as a museum,” he explained. “The site is fantastic: it’s Cocteau’s old home.”
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: Rumors are continuing to swirl that Stan Herman, who has been president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America for the past decade, might be ready to step down. Another rash of speculation made the rounds this week, but Herman said nothing’s up. “I’m president for another year,” he said. “My term is up next June and I’ll make my decision then, but I want to do at least one more gala before I retire, because I want to get one good review in Women’s Wear Daily.”
As for rumors of who might replace him, Calvin Klein’s name came up this week. But CFDA insiders said the designer isn’t interested in Herman’s job, but rather has thrown his hat into the ring to host next year’s awards ceremony.
FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS: Would banker blue suit Tom Ford? As Gucci shareholders prepare to meet Monday in Amsterdam and vote on the designer’s recent appointment to the management board, some analysts are speculating whether Ford could one day take the helm of the company if and when chief executive Domenico De Sole steps down. De Sole’s contract expires in 2004 and there is no word yet on whether he’ll renew or retire.
“I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion, but I think it’s a possibility,” said one equity analyst. “Promoting Tom Ford sends a certain message.”
Gucci declined to comment, but a spokesman reiterated the company line on the board appointment last week: “The Tom Ford appointment recognizes the role that he plays within the group,” he said. Ford was said to be on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
Whatever happens, Ford already plays a larger role than most designers do in the management of their companies. “He’s a businessman,” said one London-based analyst. “He’s not like most designers. He doesn’t just talk about what color is in this year, or about strappy shoes.”