OPRAH’S VALENTINO FIX: Can Oprah Winfrey do for couture what she did for books? The talk-show queen, who attended her first Valentino couture show in July, is filming an episode with the designer about his couture and ready-to-wear empire. While attending Valentino’s show in Paris earlier this summer, Winfrey told WWD that “couture is what keeps fashion alive,” although her pronouncement came just as designers were bailing left and right from the couture calendar. Now she’s looking to expose the designer to her weekly audience of an estimated 21 million. A spokeswoman for Winfrey’s production company said, “We are going to be doing a show with Valentino, but we haven’t set a date yet.” A Valentino spokeswoman declined to comment on the plans, but Oprah’s Couture Club sure has a nice ring to it. At least she can afford it.

OPEN SEASON: The large contingent of Russian female tennis players at the U.S. Open this year is being celebrated by at least one compatriot: Ukraine-born ice skater Oksana Baiul. “I love watching all the Russian players,” Baiul said at a party Monday night at Arthur Ashe stadium that was sponsored by the USA Network. “They are so tall and beautiful.” Baiul, who has her own fashion line for ice skaters, also said she planned to take in a few fashion shows next week, including Luca Luca and Heatherette. Hosted by John McEnroe, Tracy Austin and Jim Courier, the USA party drew celebs and starlets not necessarily known for their athletic prowess. Actor Anthony Michael Hall said he doesn’t play tennis but is a big fan of Serena and Venus Williams, while actress Sonia Braga, best known for her role as Samantha’s lesbian lover on “Sex and the City,” said she recently started playing and is now becoming more serious about her game. Among other partygoers were Star Jones of “The View,” model Maggie Rizer and actress Sylvia Miles, who mingled briefly before heading off to watch the night matches.COMEBACK KID: Kenzo Takada, who “retired” four years ago from the now LVMH-owned Kenzo house he founded, is readying a boutique in Paris. The 65-year-old designer said it should open early next year in the former Kugel antiques gallery on the tony Rue Saint-Honoré. It will be called Gokan Kobo, which loosely translates from Japanese as “studio of the five senses.” “The idea is to be very exclusive,” said Takada, noting that the three-level, 6,000-square-foot store will stock women’s and men’s ready-to-wear as well as linens and home decor items. Takada launched his Gokan Kobo label earlier this year with a line of silk scarves and ties under license with Italy’s Ratti.

O PIONEER: Maverick designer Rei Kawakubo is taking fashion retailing to yet another unforeseen frontier: under a bridge. For a forthcoming Comme des Garçons “guerrilla” store in Warsaw, the designer has signed a lease for one of the structure’s support columns — accessible from land, mind you, before the bridge spans the Wisla River. The unusual space was previously occupied by a publishing company and has tools embedded in the concrete walls as one design feature. The rent? Around $600 a month. Guerrilla stores exist for one year in emerging neighborhoods with local partners selling a mix of Kawakubo’s lines. The Warsaw unit is slated to open Sept. 24, headed by a Polish professor of demography. Other guerrilla locations bowing this month include Ljubljana, Slovenia; Stockholm, and Helsinki, Finland, the latter located in an old pharmacy — with all its nifty Fifties wooden cabinetry intact.

GET SPORTY: The Olympic Games may be over, but for the London-based design duo Eley Kishimoto, the sporting life has only just begun. Next month, Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto will unveil their first capsule collection in collaboration with the Italian activewear label Ellesse. The collection, Eley Kishimoto Ellesse, is the first in a three-season deal and features tennis-inspired separates. The clothing will have its own runway show, on schedule, during London Fashion Week.

DIEGO FOR PRESIDENT?: It’s a well-known fact that Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle is setting his sights beyond loafers and handbags. The executive owns a soccer team and has invested in both a publishing house and a bank. But could politics be his next aspiration? Della Valle and his close buddy, Ferrari chief and Fiat chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who also heads Italy’s powerful business association, Confindustria, met up with Tony Blair for lunch last month during the British prime minister’s Tuscan vacation. Tod’s press office is mum on the details, and the encounter produced next to no press coverage. Maybe it’s because journalists here are still busy giggling about Blair’s recent Sardinian visit with a bandanna-bearing Silvio Berlusconi. The incident prompted speculation that the Italian leader is getting hair plugs.

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