THAT’S SHOW BIZ: Giorgio Armani is not one to beat around the bush. On Monday, during a news conference to present the issue of the Italian bimonthly, L’Europeo, dedicated to fashion, in which the designer wrote the preface, Armani reiterated his distaste for shocking runway shows that “ridicule fashion” and give a “distorted” image of the industry to the general public. “For many designers, what goes on the runway is only 20 percent of what they actually produce and sell,” said Armani, who lamented a general lack of good taste and a “fanatic” desire of many to do anything to gain a cover. Armani also said many fashion journalists were equally responsible for the public’s twisted view of fashion. “It’s their duty to educate the readers,” urged Armani.

Armani echoed a sentiment expressed by Diego Della Valle last month, who, in an interview with an Italian weekly, said the press was not critical of the collections and did not focus enough on the clothes but on the sensationalism of the shows.

JONESING FOR JOHNSON: A gaggle of fans flocked to Betsey Johnson’s Melrose Avenue boutique in Los Angeles to meet the designer Friday evening. Twenty percent of the night’s sales were donated to the National Breast Cancer Coalition and guests came bearing gifts and ready to shop. The booty included flowers, love letters and even a silk-screened dress, made that day, by fledgling designer Periel Aschenbrand. Many of the guests were long-term customers whose vintage Johnson attire was an archivist’s dream. “When I go vintaging, I end up buying armloads of my own clothes,” said Johnson as she hugged and greeted her guests.“I never saved them myself, but I’m seeing things here that are from 20 years ago.”

One devotee, who was in head-to-toe Johnson and had tailored one of her old dresses to fit her accompanying 10-year-old daughter, said, “I’ve worn Betsey for over 25 years and her designs are not only outside of the box, they last longer than most husbands.”

DEJA VU: LeSportsac president and chief executive officer Tim Schifter must have thought he had double vision when he logged on to eBay recently. The site featured a Barbie styled to resemble Gwen Stefani — as she appeared on a WWD front page last January — with red-tipped tresses, a red thong and bra peeping out from under a jumpsuit and even a miniature L.A.M.B. for LeSportsac handbag.“Of course, we bought it and just received it,” he said of the one-of-a-kind doll, which he thought a fan created and then put up for sale. The doll originated in Florida and even came with a certificate signed by its sender.

As for the real L.A.M.B. bags, Schifter said they are such a success that the company chartered a Boeing 747, which will be filled with “Gwen product” and flown in from Hong Kong in January. “Picture an entire 747 filled with these bags,” he said. “We just can’t meet the demand fast enough.”

RIDING INTO LONE STAR: Roberto Cavalli got a taste of Texas last week, but he hungered for a larger bite. “To stay here two days is not enough,” he said Wednesday during an hour-long appearance at Neiman Marcus’ flagship in Dallas. “I have to see the city, all the Neiman’s stores and meet my fans. I will be here one week next time.” Neiman’s entertained the designer in style, throwing a lavish cocktail party and runway show Tuesday at the Dallas Design Center that was attended by more than 400 people.

Cavalli’s flamboyant fall collection was modeled on a brightly lit, narrow carpet that wound like a racetrack through the SRO crowd, many of whom wore Cavalli. “He’s my favorite designer,” said Jacque Wynne, in a Cavalli animal-print jacket, top and pants. “If I had $1,000 left, I would buy part of a Cavalli.” A couple of women wore the designer’s painted leather pants from the Seventies, and they wouldn’t part with them when the designer offered to buy them back.

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