MONEY TALKS: Negotiations to renew the employment contracts of Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole at Gucci Group may be conducted in private. But François-Henri Pinault, chairman of Artemis, which controls PPR and Gucci Group, is publicly letting his wallet do some talking. A self-described shopaholic, Pinault was among the first customers at the new Yves Saint Laurent men’s wear store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which opened for the first time Thursday morning. He emerged lugging a huge white YSL shopping bag. Inside? A leather jacket designed by Ford. Could it be a $2,000 vote of confidence?

CURTIS’ RAP SHEET: Every fall, cartoonist Ray Billingsley sees to it that his comic strip character Curtis goes back-to-school shopping with his mother. Sunday’s strip, which ran in 250 newspapers, poked fun at rappers’ penchant for signature lines. Curtis’ pleas for the new Thug line of apparel by rapper E.R. Stitch fall on deaf ears. “Why you kids would put an admitted poison pusher up on a pedestal is beyond me,” his mother says.

Reached Wednesday at the office of King Features, which syndicates Curtis, Billingsley said he drew from his own shopping experiences with his son Brian Keith. This year was the first time the 21-year-old was allowed to buy into the baggy look — when he moved out of his father’s house.

Billingsley said he was also struck by how many rappers have charged into the apparel business in the past year. “For a while, the market was flooded with rappers. There was Puff…Puff Daddy, or whatever his name is…P. Diddy,” Billingsley said. “What they want to do is connect to their fame and put this out. But they don’t look at it long-term.”

But Billingsley isn’t above a trip down Seventh Avenue. “It wouldn’t be bad to have a cartoon line in fashion to get my character on a couple of T-shirts,” he laughed. “I’d be more than happy to work with them.”

TICKET TO RIDE: For anyone who’s lived in Los Angeles, returning to a car with a parking ticket can easily be a weekly occurrence.Conversely, in New York, where most fashionistas just cab it, parking tickets are about as common as palm trees. But thanks to Luca Luca designer Luca Orlandi, 1,800 people received a humorous replica of a New York City parking violation as an invitation to his Sept. 14 runway show at Bryant Park.

The idea was a result of an overflowing box of bright orange parking ticket envelopes on Orlandi’s desk. “I always get two to three tickets at a time and I send the money in one envelope and keep the others, because I really like the envelopes,” said Orlandi. “I was thinking of covering the walls in my guest bathroom with them.”

So Orlandi enlisted his in-house graphic designer to create a copy of the ticket with the same dimensions, even using the same Pantone color of orange for the envelope. Besides the time, place and date of the event, there are 12 witty fashion violations, such as “Choosing sneakers over stilettos” ($55), “Selling your grandma’s vintage croc bag on eBay” ($180), and “Sipping tap instead of Evian” ($55).

Fearing the real police would intercept the copies or the tickets might automatically be rerouted to some sort of Federal black hole, Orlandi and his staff mailed 10 test tickets to one another beforehand. A few days later, about 200 people had already called to reserve seats —surprising, since the firm normally receives 30 to 50 responses before Labor Day. While they’re excited about the reaction, they hope not all 1,800 show up — the venue, the Gertrude tent, is the largest space in the park but has only 700 seats.

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