TOM’S TUNE: Speculation about a deal between Tom Ford and the Estée Lauder Cos. continues to swirl, and an announcement could come as early as next week. The latest reports indicate that talks are under way about the possibility of Lauder marketing a Ford product line of some sort. However, it is believed the discussions involve a project that lies outside the boundaries of the flagship Lauder brand. It’s also been speculated that Ford and Domenico De Sole are in talks with an unspecified number of companies on a gamut of Ford projects, ranging from an eyewear license to making a movie. Whatever the reality, Ford, De Sole and Lauder are saying absolutely nothing. When asked about the rumors last week, Ford replied that he had “not as of yet signed any deals at this time.”

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HELMUT’S HIATUS?: Less than two weeks following the announcement that Prada would close Lang’s historic New York offices, it now appears that Prada Group chief Patrizio Bertelli has put the brand in a holding pattern and, in doing so, has created a state of limbo in its design studio. Two sources close to Helmut Lang’s recently appointed design team said the designers, hired following Lang’s January departure, were sent home last week and told to wait for further notice. “No one really understands what’s going on with the line,” said one source with close knowledge of Helmut Lang’s design team. “It’s a decision that Bertelli and his men have to make.” Indeed. The future of Helmut Lang is contingent on if and when the company is sold, and to whom. As reported, Bertelli is said to be in advanced talks with several possible buyers. The names bidding on Helmut Lang could not be learned, although industry sources believe it’s either Helmut Lang himself or Lang backed by someone else. “There are a lot of rumors and speculation and Prada does not comment on speculation,” said a Prada Group spokesman.

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