LAUREN LAUNCHING SLEEPWEAR: Ralph Lauren sleepwear will be back in stores for fall 2003. Jones Apparel Group has signed a sublicense with Carole Hochman Designs to produce and market a line of women’s sleepwear bearing the Lauren Ralph Lauren name. Distribution is aimed at department stores that carry the Lauren Ralph Lauren sportswear collection, produced and marketed under a licensing agreement between Jones and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. A licensing pact with Sara Lee Corp. to manufacture innerwear bearing the Ralph Lauren name expired in 2001. The new collection of Lauren Ralph Lauren sleepwear will be launched at wholesale at the January 2003 innerwear market in New York at showrooms located at 135 Madison Avenue. TRACY TRAVELS: Though they remained tight-lipped about rumors of a Liz Claiborne buyout, Ellen Tracy’s Herb Gallen and Linda Allard put on their party faces Wednesday night when they returned to Los Angeles for the first time in four years to sponsor a gala at the Park Plaza Hotel benefitting the Dream Foundation. Event chairs Cindy Crawford, Priscilla Presley and Joely Fisher wore Ellen Tracy, of course. The event marked the high point of a three-day California whirlwind that included a cocktail party and fashion show at Bloomingdale’s Century City store the day before, and at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Union Square branch in San Francisco on Thursday. "Tonight, I can just relax and have a drink," said Allard.DOMINICAN MANEUVERING: Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia secured some congressional help Wednesday in his fight to get the Bush administration to include his country in free trade talks with five Central American countries, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Mejia received the backing from a group of Democratic and Republican House lawmakers after a meeting called by Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. However, administration officials remain opposed to including the Dominican Republic in a Central America FTA, arguing the country has been at odds with the U.S. on World Trade Organization issues. The Dominican Republic accounts for a 5 percent share of U.S. apparel imports. The five Central American countries, tapped by Bush to form a free trade zone with the U.S., represent 16 percent of the apparel imports.

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