EPI EVOLVES: It took 18 years, but Louis Vuitton’s signature Epi grained leather has finally softened up. Come September, four signature Vuitton bags also will be available in a more supple version of the leather.

A yoga bag called the “Dhanura” also is being added. The largest version comes with a yoga mat, quilted with iconic Vuitton patterns. It retails for about $1,325. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Supple Epi is even getting its own campaign this fall, which was recently shot in Chile by Jean Lariviere, the original photographer of Vuitton’s “spirit of travel” institutional ads.

ME & RO MOVE: No pun intended, but Me & Ro’s new boutique is just a stone’s throw away from the old one. The jewelry label’s design duo, Michele Quan and Robin Renzi, celebrated the opening of their new store at 241 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan last month. At 750 square feet, the new space is 250 square feet larger. First-year sales projections are about $2 million.

“Our lease was up in eight months in the old store,” Renzi said. “The space next door is an amazing space and it’s the center of the block.”

Me & Ro also is launching belts, which are a modern take on Sixties bohemian flower power in tan, brown and red leather with a floral buckle. The belts are exclusive to Me & Ro’s New York and Miami boutiques and retail for $385 to $810.

FUTURE DESIGN: The Accessories Council and Seventeen magazine teamed up last month to honor the 2003 the Fashion Institute of Technology’s graduating class in accessories and jewelry design.

Six awards were handed out and each winning student received a check of $1,000. The awards were underwritten by Kate Spade, Miriam Haskell, John Hardy, Polo Leathergoods, Cole Haan and Seventeen magazine.

“We are supporting tomorrow’s designers and stars,” said Sheila Block, the council’s executive director. “Your hard work and creative design show originality at its best.”

Monica Russo won for handbag design, Hiroko Sasaki for costume jewelry, Noriko Sugawara for fine jewelry, Esi Akaah for belts and Anne Sung for footwear design. The Seventeen Award for Emerging Talent went to Aram Lee.John Hardy, who kept himself busy at the reception pinning silver heart pins onto people’s jackets, had some hearty advice for students. “Make what you believe in because if you are passionate about it, you will sell it,” he said.

ANDY’S DESIGN PROJECT: Designer Andy Spade has just launched a unisex line of Jack Spade bags featuring a range of fabrics not usually associated with accessories.

Produced in collaboration with textile company Maharam, the collection is made of fabrics and patterns by the late modernist architect and designer Alexander Girard, which the New York-based textile company is reintroducing. The line includes cotton and nylon blends, as well as wool offerings. It consists of four bags and three pouches, which retail from $35 to $395.

Since it is a design project between the accessories designer and the home textile firm, it was unveiled recently at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in Manhattan.

KEEP ’EM COMING: Another jewelry store has hit Manhattan shores. Canadian jeweler Kaufmann de Suisse has opened a 2,500-square-foot boutique on East 66th Street and Madison Avenue, next door to Bulgari.

It is the third location for the Montreal-based company, after Palm Beach, Fla., and Montreal. The new store has white walls and mauve carpeting, and the display cases have limestone touches. A fountain is placed strategically on the selling floor.

“We are trying to slow people down here,” said Charles Kaufmann, vice president of the company.

The jewelry includes 18-karat gold and diamond offerings, as well as gemstones and cuff links for men, with prices ranging from $3,000 to $20,000. Sales are projected to reach $5 million within a few years.

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