WHAT’S NEXT FOR DARYL K?: Buzz was building Wednesday that Daryl Kerrigan could be tapped as the next designer for Celine. Kerrigan, who showed her collection Wednesday night, has returned to the business after a two-year hiatus. Now she’s working independently after repurchasing the rights to her name from the Leiber Group. Celine officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

BURST BUBBLE: Jones Apparel Group chief Peter Boneparth turned up at the offices of Polo Jeans Wednesday and dismissed Bubbles Bott, who was president of the line, WWD has learned. Heather Peck, a Jones veteran who has been at the Jones Sport division, has taken over Bott’s role. A Jones spokeswoman confirmed Bott’s departure from the company, but declined to provide further details. An announcement is expected today.

SHOP TALK: Domenico De Sole was in high spirits Tuesday night in Paris as he helped fete revamped Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutiques for women and men on the Faubourg Saint-Honore. Why? Because Gucci, after enduring some tough numbers earlier this year, looks to be riding high this fall. “Business has significantly improved in September, and that’s over a very strong August,” he said, noting that even Europe, one of the toughest markets for the luxury crowd, has picked up dramatically. He said YSL is also up double digits. De Sole, who’s renegotiating his employment contract with Gucci owner Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, declined comment on those talks, offering the familiar refrain: “I’ll let you know when we have news.” But his body language said a lot, as he warmly greeted PPR chief executive Serge Weinberg and the two had a long tête-à-tête above the thumping house music. Deeper into the party, film talk dominated, with the likes of actresses Amira Casar and Gong Li slinking about. Decked out in a deeply plunging dress and ruffled suede jacket, Li said she’ll soon be trading modern YSL for retro. Her next film, titled “M” and directed by James Huth, will be set in the Fifties.

BROOKE IN FRONT: For someone who spent the better part of her life as a model, Brooke Shields has never sat in the audience of a fashion show.“I thought it was going to be angry and severe. I loved it. It was amazing,” said Shields, perched in the front row at Michael Kors. The actress said she was in town to perform in “The 24-Hour Plays,” which are completely created and produced in 24 hours and will benefit Working Playground.

Shields said Kors was the only show she planned to attend this week.

“I was able to wear Michael Kors during my pregnancy, and finally I’m able to fit into my pre-pregnancy Michael Kors jeans,” said Shields, dressed head-to-toe in Kors, including the jeans. Sorry, Calvin.

Meanwhile, Jessica Simpson arrived at Kors in a striped dress right out of the spring collection the designer was about to show. Once it was over, Simpson made her way straight backstage to see the rest of the line up close. “I’m so jealous of these girls who got to wear all of those outfits,” she said. “I want them all.”

WYNTER BOURNE: Some celebrities let the front row go to their heads. Others, like actress Sarah Wynter, don’t take it so seriously.

“I understand there’s a hierarchy to all this, and I can’t believe I’ve been able to sit opposite Anna Wintour,” she said at Calvin Klein’s show. “It’s like sitting opposite a legend.”

But hasn’t anyone ever mistaken Wynter for a relative of Wintour’s?

“Oh, I’d love to be,” Wynter said. “Her daughter must be so lucky to be able to go through those closets.”

CELEBRITIES GONE WILD Irritated by the paparazzi crush every time Chilli or Ashanti walks into a room? So’s Gretchen Mol. “Right now I’m excited to be done with it,” she said after she and Julianna Margulies were encircled by a crush of photographers and video cameras that had their heads spinning at Narciso Rodriguez’s show.

“I feel like it’s becoming such an ordeal,” Mol said. “It gets worse every year, with all the velvet ropes and shouting.”Margulies, too, laughed off all the attention. “Of all those pictures they’ve taken, I’m sure not one will end up in the papers,” she said. “As soon as someone else more famous walks in the room, that’s it.”

The 18-karat gold clasp bracelets and necklace Mol was wearing from Finn Jewelry, designed by her seat mate Soraya Silchenstedt, seemed to have a soothing effect on her psyche, though, as she settled down to watch the show. “You’ve got to be faithful,” Mol said.

UNLIKELY BEDFELLOWS: It was in (of all places) the lobby of the Bryant Park tents on Tuesday that PETA — yes, the runway-show-disrupting, pie-throwing, billboard-defacing animal rights crusaders — held a news conference unveiling its fall ad campaign featuring model Fernanda Tavares. “We made an agreement with Fern [Mallis, executive director of IMG],” said a PETA spokesman. “We wouldn’t protest the shows, so she invited us here to announce our campaign.” For her part, Mallis was pleased with the results. “We believe they have a message and a right to be heard,” she said.

The ad, which was shot last April by designer-cum-photographer Todd Oldham has Tavares strutting down a runway wearing a tank top, miniskirt combo from that activist across the pond, Stella McCartney, and holding an antifur sign. The tag line reads, “Models should be the only foxes on the runway.” Tavares, perhaps best known for her contract work with L’Oréal, has had a long-standing no-fur policy on fashion shoots. But it wasn’t until after her racy romp that the two camps connected. “I saw them [PETA supporters] afterwards and congratulated them,” said the 22-year-old Brazilian. The ad, done gratis, soon followed. “It was fun shooting with Todd, and I think it goes to prove that you don’t have to kill animals to look sexy and beautiful,” she added.

On tap for the group’s spring campaign is E! Entertainment Television host Melissa Rivers.

WEST COAST ATTITUDE: Apparently, the better-behave-or-you’re-busted memo didn’t make it all the way to Los Angeles. Booth Moore from the Los Angeles Times approached public relations dartboard Pierre Rougier at Narciso Rodriguez’s show, introduced herself and then asked, “Can’t you do any better than a third-row seat? I just did a major profile on him.” Rougier shrugged. “One-point-two-million circulation,” she pointed out.

FURUNWAY: J. Mendel has beefed up its ready-to-wear offerings in recent seasons, as well as opened freestanding and in-store shops this year. Further, designer Gilles Mendel became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America this summer. So, naturally, the next step is a runway show. WWD has learned that J. Mendel will have its first-ever catwalk presentation at the tents next February during the fall 2004 shows.

AND BABY MAKES THREE: Seated front and center at the Cynthia Steffe show was Ava, Steffe’s four-and-a-half-month-old daughter. A model spectator, she quietly drank her bottle throughout the show and bounced happily on daddy Richard Roberts’ lap during the curtain call. Ava felt very at home watching the clothes, considering she comes to work every day with her parents and has a nursery at the showroom.

Although Steffe doesn’t design kids’ wear yet, Ava was dressed in Steffe’s silver miniskirt and turtleneck with leather elbow and shoulder patches, that appears in grown-up sizes in the Neiman Marcus fall book. “This may prod us to do it,” said Roberts, president of the firm.

Meanwhile, John Pomerantz, chairman of Leslie Fay Cos., which owns Steffe’s business, said he is back on the links after being run over by a car last winter, and played more than a dozen times this summer. His wife, Laura Pomerantz, co-principal in PBS Realty Advisors LLC and dressed in a tweed Steffe suit, said she’s currently looking for a new location for the Abercrombie & Fitch store after a deal on Madison and 57th Street fell through at the last minute. She’s thinking perhaps further west.

TARYN IT UP:More details on actress-rocker Taryn Manning’s new clothing line: It will be for petite women and will debut in fall 2004. The collection will feature rock-meets-couture tops with plunging necklines and low backs, miniskirts and Sixties-inspired minidresses. “She’s been wanting to do this for a while,” said her rep, hinting that backing from a large manufacturer is in the works, “and now that she’s famous, it’s the perfect time.”

MATTHEW’S LONDON DIGS: During his show today, Matthew Williamson is expected to officially announce the opening of his first London store, but inklings of the deal have been circulating. Last month, Williamson’s business partner, Joseph Valosa, was spotted directing a stand-up meeting with accountant types in a vacant art gallery. The Bruton Street Gallery, just off New Bond Street, closed this year, however, a local insider said, “the superior landlords have high hopes for the street and they wanted the gallery space to go retail.” But it wouldn’t be the first designer shop on the block. Stella McCartney opened a store there in May in the former Lefevre Gallery, owned by Martin Summers.

HAIR TODAY, SHOW TOMORROW: You know what they say about all work and no play. After styling Diane von Furstenberg’s cadre of models Sunday night, celebrity hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai took in a few shows —?including Nanette Lepore on Wednesday — from a different vantage point: the front row.

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