STANDING FIRM: Italian designers will have to figure out how to compete with the Oscars, because the Italian Chamber of Fashion said there is no way Milan Fashion Week can be moved. Reached by phone Thursday, Mario Boselli, president of the Italian designers’ association, said the chamber had unanimously voted against shifting the Milan dates even though the Oscars, scheduled for Feb. 29, will fall smack in the middle of the Milan shows, which will run from Feb. 22-March 1. “We will not change the dates, but we will help any designer move his or her show to earlier in the week, if said designer wishes to go to Los Angeles and attend the Oscars,” said Boselli. As reported, Boselli said this week that the Milan show dates were decided two years ago and that they are part of a complex web of other trade events in the city.

Most Italian fashion houses downplayed the conflict with the Oscars, noting that the media covering the Academy Awards and the runway shows are different and separate, and they gave kudos to Boselli and the chamber for keeping firm. A spokesman for Donatella Versace — even though the designer last week said the Oscars would directly conflict with her house’s planned show next February — said Thursday that the house is confident it can both show its collection and dress stars for the Hollywood red carpet.“I think this is the right decision and I don’t think the shows will lose coverage given the fact that Italian papers have correspondents based in Los Angeles and that the fashion and entertainment press are separate,” said Robert Triefus, Giorgio Armani’s executive vice president for worldwide communication. Triefus said the company had not decided what days to show its fall collections, but acknowledged Armani was “very happy to be earlier in the week.” A spokeswoman for Missoni, who earlier this week expressed concerns about splitting the company’s small team of seamstresses between Milan and Los Angeles, said the company is now “evaluating different options,” but did not elaborate.

A spokesman for Roberto Cavalli, who was flying to New York at press time, said he was not concerned about the shows’ coverage. The spokesman, however, said Cavalli, who has dressed Halle Berry and Jo Champa at past Oscars, will not be able to attend next year’s event. “Even if we do bring forward the show, there is so much going on that week that Cavalli wouldn’t be able to leave Milan right after his show,” said the spokesman. The spokesman also said that preparations for the Oscars are made way in advance and that clothes are sent to the U.S. way before the awards. “We are helped by the fact that we have offices in the U.S. that can smooth out details,” he said. Armando Branchini, vice president of InterCorporate, an analyst here who works with many of Italy’s luxury goods players,praised the chamber’s decision. “We didn’t move the show dates for Yom Kippur, why should we do it for an event that is so far from fashion? These are two very different worlds…the risk is turning everything into mere entertainment,” said Branchini.WOK THIS WAY: So much for the Proenza Schouler boys keeping a low profile while they’re in Paris. The hot design duo of Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough were spotted having dinner at fashion hotspot Dave Wednesday night when they were joined later by a handsome man in a white suit: Tom Ford. The trio were said to continue on for a nightcap at the Ritz. Oh, the intrigue.

IN THE BAG: Art and accessories joined forces on Wednesday night at the Fendi boutique in Paris. The brand hosted a soiree to fete the launch of “British Artists at Work,” a tome dedicated to contemporary Brits. Tracey Emin, who is among the artists featured, was at the store to join the festivities — and perhaps to get some fashion inspiration. The controversial artist, best known for her 1998 installation “My Bed,” said she’s working on her own handbag design with the classic French accessories brand Longchamp. Though the artist was mum on details, she revealed that the item would go on sale in September next year and will be “really creative.” Certainly, Emin’s in thick with the fashion crowd, boasting that she rode the Paris subway with Vivienne Westwood this week. Emin said she’s a fan of Westwood’s clothes, but it’s not a mutual-admiration society. “Vivienne hates my work,” she quipped.

ABSENT MINDED: The front-row intrigue at the Celine show Thursday was not what one might expect. It was more about who wasn’t there than who was. There was no sign of Dean and Dan Caten, the DSquared designers LVMH are said to be wooing to succeed Michael Kors when his contract expires next spring. Sources said they were in Italy at the Diesel factory. But also missing were most major American editors and buyers. How come? After Helmut Lang’s out-of-the-way show set the schedule out of whack, Celine officials placed courtesy calls to warn that their 4:30 show would start at least an hour late. Oops! At about 5:25, on came the music and out came the models, leaving late-arriving crews from American Vogue, Saks Fifth Avenue and Harper’s Bazaar standing outside or trying to sneak a peak from the rafters. Celine officials made a round of calls to apologize for the botch-up, which it characterized as a “misunderstanding.”A STUDIED LOOK: The house of Missoni may have just celebrated its 50th anniversary with a blowout bash in Milan, but Margherita Missoni still found time to study for her philosophy exams last week. And at the Emanuel Ungaro show on Thursday, she proudly reported that she scored an A+ on her ethics test. “I studied so hard, I hardly had a second to enjoy Milan Fashion Week,” she said. “I am ready to relax now.” And she also helped reprise Missoni’s exhaustive retrospective show. She pointed out that she was wearing a vintage Missoni shirt from the Seventies that didn’t make it onto the runway.

PLAYING AROUND: Roman Polanski, who is directing Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” at Paris’ Marigny theater, took time out from rehearsals on Thursday to attend Helmut Lang’s show. “I have always wanted to direct this play,” remarked Polanski, whose wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, plays the lead. “It’s a fantastic piece of writing: tragic but not violent.” Polanski added that he has been having a ball directing his wife onstage. “It’s very easy. She is extremely disciplined.”

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