REALITY CHECK: Burberry has a new fan: Russia’s First Lady Ludmila Putin. In London last week with Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin for an official visit, she had been roundly lampooned in the British press for her outmoded wardrobe. To the rescue came Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie Blair and her stylist Carole Caplin, who helped her order up a new wardrobe at Burberry’s Haymarket showroom over the weekend. According to British press reports, Putin paid wholesale and was offered a handbag as a parting gift while she awaits her clothes being shipped to Moscow.

FASHION POLICE: “I thought we were all going to be arrested,” Interview editor in chief Ingrid Sischy quipped after the Comme des Garçons men’s show in Paris Saturday afternoon. It’s no wonder: At the conclusion of the show, held in the courtyard of the Comme des Garçons store on Faubourg Saint Honoré, a police officer strolled onto the runway and yelled a stern announcement in French. Puzzled, the audience remained seated and — not knowing what else to do — some started applauding. Turns out the hoopla was about parking infractions — and what police perceived as a potential bomb threat. One photographer at the show, and someone shopping at the Tod’s shop next door, had parked their scooters in front of the British Embassy across the street and the authorities got nervous. Retailers and editors exited to find the street blocked off and crawling with cops. But no one was cited for crimes against fashion.

RUNWAY VIRGIN: British billionaire Sir Richard Branson breezed into Paris on the Eurostar Sunday afternoon to attend the Ozwald Boateng men’s wear show — and cheer on his 17-year-old son Sam, who modeled a cream suit and pink shirt and struck a pose for the photographers. No runway virgin, it was his second time strutting for the designer.

“I love to do it because I get a free suit,” said the younger Branson, who just graduated from high school and plans to take a year off to travel the world. Meanwhile, his dad confessed his first taste of men’s fashion week in Paris was enough. “I’d probably prefer to be looking at women on the runway than men,” he quipped.For more on the Virgin Airlines chairman, see page 6.)

HOLLYWOOD BECKONS: It was Bradley Bayou’s first foray into Hollywood Thursday night since joining Halston last December, and he and co-host/producer Jennifer Todd (“Memento” and “Austin Powers”) marked the occasion with a Patina-catered dinner benefiting the Entertainment Industry Foundation at his contemporary Hollywood Hills home — one of the almost two dozen Bayou has designed from the inside out. “I’ve never worn Bradley’s things before, but I love wearing one of a kind!” beamed actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who had an appointment lined up in Bayou’s studio the following day for a custom suit, thereby bypassing the masses, who got a look at the collection Friday at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. Guests Jessica Capshaw, Lake Bell, Cheri Oteri and others also got a preview of the new looks, which are exclusive to Saks, prior to the dinner. Gyllenhaal’s beau, indie-actor Peter Sarsgaard, really fired up the conversation when he brought up the biopic in the works on Halston by writer Daniel Minahan (“I Shot Andy Warhol”). Apparently, Rupert Everett tops the list to play the late designer.

EXPRESSING HERSELF: July will mark a pair of firsts for Limited Brands: the premiere in-store personal appearance by Karolina Kurkova, slated for the retailer’s largest Express store yet — a 20,000-square-footer to bow, appropriately, in the mega Mall of America on July 12. Kurkova, who has appeared in ads for Express since last fall, will drop by the store on July 19, wearing denim from the latest Express collection and aiming to lend a shine to the line as well as the locale.

A group of 21 artists and writers was hired to design hangtags for the new Express denim range, including Grateful Dead album artist Stanley Mouse, who contributed a winged-eyeball design, and novelist Chip Kidd, whose tag offers a story called “A Pants Romance.”

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