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TALES OF GIVENCHY: “No change.” That was the official word from Givenchy Monday in the face of widening speculation and press reports here that couturier Julien Macdonald would soon be replaced, possibly by Dior Homme fashion star Hedi Slimane. A Givenchy spokesman said that Macdonald’s contract with Givenchy runs through April 2004, dismissing the Slimane story as rumor. He is slated to show his spring couture collection tonight.

This story first appeared in the January 21, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Slimane could not be reached for comment, but Dior officials said on the sidelines of the couture show Monday that Slimane was staying put. LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault is said to still be weighing his options for Givenchy, and they currently don’t center on Slimane. Sources said it would be difficult to attract a designer of his caliber to the house without granting him or her the power to remake the fragrance and beauty business, in addition to the fashion house.

UNSEAMLY BEHAVIOR: France’s “petites mains” are giving the luxury fashion industry a slap on the wrist. A group of 35 protesters, representing French apparel unions, gathered at the entrance to Dior’s couture show on Monday to demonstrate against job losses in the industry and particularly in France. The group handed out flyers with a litany of complaints including the job losses that will result from the pending closure of Thierry Mugler’s fashion business.

KING KARL CONQUERS N.Y.: First Balenciaga decided to come to New York, and now Chanel has a big Valentine’s present for Manhattan with an intimate show planned at noon on Feb. 14, at its salon at 15 East 57th Street.

But don’t pity Paris just yet. It’s actually a reprise of the Satellite Love Show held in Paris in December, when Karl Lagerfeld showed his pre-fall Chanel ready-to-wear collection and showcased the specialty ateliers Chanel now owns: the embroidery house Lesage, haute shoemaker Massaro, Desrues costume jewelry, Michel hats and Lemariè camellias. Alas, while 33 looks are expected to be shown, Lagerfeld himself is not expected to attend.

Meanwhile, you can count Chanel among the things that go better with Coke. The soft drink giant has approached Lagerfeld to star in an advertising campaign in Europe. Contracts have yet to be signed, but the designer is effervescent about the project. “I would be stupid not to do it,” he said. “I like the idea very much. I think it’s fun. It’s very Pop.”

FAST FASHION: Hot actress Brittany Murphy is also a budding fashion commentator. Talking to reporters about her front-row presence at Dior couture Monday, her eyes suddenly darted as Tatler fashion editor Isabella Blow breezed by in a sheer pink burka. “Fabulous disguise,” she quipped, without missing a beat. Murphy herself breezed into Paris for the show from Amsterdam, where she is promoting the film “8 Mile.” To her right sat the singers Eve, Bryan Adams and Michelle Branch. “I’m a virgin to couture,” confessed Branch. “I don’t know why they invited me. I’m the most unfashionable person.” Canadian rocker Adams, who is also a photographer, is here lensing a story for In Style. Meanwhile, on the other side of the podium down from Elizabeth Hurley was Pierre Cardin. Since he once headed the Dior workroom, he said it was a homecoming of sorts. “It’s been 53 years since I’ve not seen a Dior show,” he said. “And John Galliano is the voice of his generation. He’s the only couturier working today who I admire.”

GOING TO SCHOOL: Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, the women behind the hip Los Angeles-based Juicy Couture brand, are getting a taste of the real couture this week. Invited by Vogue, with whom they are working on a feature, the two will attend all of the shows here this week. “We’ve won the golden ticket,” gushed Skaist-Levy before Dior. “We’ve entered the fantastical world of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.”

SHOW TIME: Dawn Mello and Phillip Miller are in Paris for couture week, working on a new project with mall developer The Rouse Co. Mello and Miller are in discussions with the Chambre Syndicale, which organizes Paris fashion weeks, about bringing the shows, on a consumer timetable, to its center in Coral Gables, Fla., and the Fashion Show mall in Las Vegas.

SHEIK TO SHEIK: Kuwaiti retailer Sheik Majed Al-Sabah, owner of the Villa Moda, isn’t at the couture shows in Paris this week — but he has a good reason. He’s in Dubai finishing a deal to open a Villa Moda there this fall. It will be a franchised location, but with Villa Moda in charge of the architecture and look of the store, and Al-Sabah assembling the brands and doing the buying.

WORTH A REVAMP: The latest forgotten fashion jewel to get a makeover is the house of Charles Frederick Worth, founded in the 19th century by the famed English couturier. Worth this week is showing its debut collection of “couture lingerie” in a presentation at the Hotel Meurice, a range of handmade luxury corsets that will retail for around $1,000. Italian Giovanni Bedin designed them. “I tried to imagine what women who wore Worth’s designs would have worn under their gowns,” he said. “They’re very erotic with a boudoir spirit.” The house plans to open a salon in Paris later his year that will also offer made-to-measure ensembles. The project is the brainchild of fashion impresario Mounir Moufarrige, who recently sold France Luxury Group, which he founded just over a year ago, to French entrepreneur Alain Dumenil.

OLIVIER TWIST: Olivier Theyskens may be funneling most of his energy into turning around the dormant house of Rochas, but the Belgian designer is also taking time for a few extracurricular activities as well. He’s designing costumes for a new production in Brussels of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “I Due Foscari,” premiering in April. Theyskens is also guest-editing a fashion magazine to be published by the Flanders Fashion Institute in Antwerp. His will be the fourth in the twice-a-year series and called D. Hussein Chalayan edited the preceding issue, C.

TOUR DE BARTLETT: A rumor going around town indicates that John Bartlett, having closed his signature collection, might now be headed to J. Crew to become its creative director. That would be an interesting combination, raising the possibility that college students across America would have to trade in their dress chinos for camouflage chaps, but, alas, that might not come to pass. “I did meet with them in December,” Bartlett confessed. “But as far as I know, no, it’s not going to happen.”

Bartlett, whose career will be the subject of a retrospective at the Cincinnati Art Museum in November, allowed that such a job remains “a possibility,” but said his head’s in another place, right now.

“Basically, I’m leaving to go to Thailand next week for four weeks of yoga,” Bartlett said. “Now, I’m just free-associating, except for thinking about which sarong I should bring.”

HIGH FLYER: Julien Macdonald has found a new muse in the British Airways flight attendant. Starting this week, more than 100 British Airways staff including check-in agents, cabin, and flight crew will try out new uniforms designed by Macdonald. Women will wear single-breasted blue suits with a choice of skirts or trousers. They’ll also don old-style aviator hats designed by the milliner Stephen Jones, and carry bags designed by the luxury goods firm Tanner Krolle.

Their male counterparts will sport navy pinstripe suits with a red lining. Eventually, BA plans to issue 30,000 of its staff with the uniform. The airline declined to reveal the cost of the project.

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