READY FOR A CLOSE-UP: Gemma Ward has taken a sabbatical from modeling to spend two months filming "The Black Balloon" alongside Toni Collette. Directed by Elissa Down, the film tackles an adolescent boy's difficulty in coming to terms with his autistic brother. Ward plays the adolescent's girlfriend, Jackie. The shoot dates mean the model-now-actress will be skipping all ready-to-wear shows except for those in Paris. "She's having a riot as it's a project she's been working on for years and it's an all-Australian crew," said a spokeswoman for Ward.

NO VACANCY: Where will the fashion world sleep in 2008? The Ritz-Carlton is planning major renovations starting next year and the mythical palace on the Place Vendôme will be shut for up to two years. Word has it the Crillon may start renovations around the same time. There is already a shortage of rooms in Paris this year. The Bristol is closed until the end of March for renovations and expansion, and the sudden closing of the Royal Monceau, starting today, will heighten competition for expensive beds.

MOUNTAIN HIGH: Montblanc, best known for its pens, wants to write a new chapter. The luxury firm owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont will host what is being billed as a star-studded gala to launch its first collection of diamond jewelry. Some 200 international guests are expected to attend the Feb. 2 event that will be hosted in an "ice palace" that Montblanc will construct — where else? — at the foot of France's Mont Blanc.

TRANSFORMERS: Hussein Chalayan's mechanical dresses, owned by Swarovski, may not make ideal dinner gear, but how about a head-turning window display? Hip Paris boutique Colette has requested four of the transforming outfits — plus a translucent bubble dress — to decorate its windows during couture week next week. But, alas, the dresses will remain static. "The mechanism was designed to only have a 30-second life span, and they're too delicate to animate repeatedly," explained a Chalayan spokeswoman, noting, however, that runway footage of the dresses in action will accompany the display.THREAD AHEAD: French embroidery guru François Lesage will be elevated to Officer of the Legion of Honor in a ceremony at the Ministry of Culture in Paris on Wednesday. In deference to his importance to the couture, Jean Paul Gaultier has agreed to delay his show the same day — originally scheduled for 2:30 p.m. — for at least an hour to allow Lesage's guests time to toast him properly.

BASSO'S DEBUT: The New York Public Library is familiar territory for Dennis Basso, who has showed his furs there in recent seasons, but Bryant Park will be new terrain. The designer has lined up the Promenade to stage his first 7th on Sixth runway show, at 2 p.m. on Feb. 9. Bill Mullen is styling the show, which will feature Basso's first rtw collection and cocktail clothes.

HICKS ON MADISON: London designer Allegra Hicks will hit American shores in March with a stand-alone store on Madison Avenue, between 77th and 78th Streets. The 250-square-foot store is located next to Missoni, and will carry Hicks' rtw and lifestyle collections. It was designed by her husband, Ashley Hicks. The Madison space will be Hicks' second retail outlet: She has a stand-alone store at 28 Cadogan Place in London. Hicks will show her beefed-up rtw collection — she's moving away from caftans and toward daywear and eveningwear — on Feb. 13 during London Fashion Week.

XEROX COUTURE: The love affair between fashion and art continues to heat up. Gearing up for couture week, Givenchy on Thursday unveiled its second collaboration with British artist Katerina Jebb — whose body of work includes a human-size photocopy of Kylie Minogue — in its store window on Avenue George V. The installation features a photocopy of a girl in a white tulle Givenchy couture dress from last season, alongside a making-of video and the gown itself. The model is the 14-year-old daughter of a friend of the artist.

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