TALKING FASHION: Oscar de la Renta took the stage Saturday following New York Fashion Week to discuss his craft, life, career and latest collection, as part of the fourth annual The New Yorker Festival.

The charismatic designer, whose most charming stories were of his childhood in the Dominican Republic, was interviewed by Simon Schama, a staff writer at the The New Yorker. The talk was aided by a slide show that included such artifacts as an outfit from de la Renta’s first collection for Elizabeth Arden that was an ode to his apprenticeship at Balenciaga.

To delighted gasps from women in the audience, IMG model Ujjwala Raut and the firm’s house model, Brooke Walls, made an appearance in two looks from the designer’s spring 2004 collection that was shown last week.

De la Renta continues his busy schedule today by heading to Washington, D.C., to host the “Christmas in September” luncheon that benefits Casa del Nino, a day care center and orphanage in the Dominican Republic that de la Renta cofounded.

Tonight, the designer will head to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where he will be interviewed by National Public Radio’s Susan Stamberg. There, de la Renta will donate a yellow embroidered caftan with coordinating yellow silk brocade cigarette pants from this fall’s collection, along with a de la Renta-designed Balmain couture piece, to the museum.

WAVING, TRAVELING MAN: Though Roberto Cavalli only attended the Luca Luca runway show during fashion week, the energetic designer was busy elsewhere in town.

Cavalli was at a press conference last Tuesday at the Columbus Citizens Foundation town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where it was announced that he was named grand marshal of the 59th Annual Columbus Day Parade. By Thursday, he headed to Los Angeles for two days to take a closer look at the Rodeo Drive retail space he’s planning to open this spring, as well as the nearby Costa Mesa location opening this fall.

Then it was off to Las Vegas to check out the Cirque du Soleil show, “Zumanity,” Saturday night, and finally, back to Milan Sunday to prepare for the upcoming Just Cavalli and Roberto Cavalli spring shows.GOLDEN CHARITY: Chicago’s 48th Annual Gold Coast Fashion Award Show will take place Wednesday featuring a runway presentation with looks from designers including Lela Rose, Reem Acra, Alicia Bell, Palmer Jones, Oliver Christian Herold, Y & Kei and Stephen Yearick. The show is being produced by Susan Glick, fashion director of the Chicago Apparel Center.

After the group show, the expected 1,500 guests will cast votes for their favorite designer. The winner will return the following year to receive the Gold Coast Fashion Award and present his or her fall collection. Los Angeles-based designer Kevan Hall was last year’s winner.

There will be another runway show highlighting apparel from retailers such as Burberry, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Mark Shale, St. John Boutique and Frances Heffernan.

The fund-raiser is expected to raise more than $350,000 for The Children’s Service Board, which is trying to raise $2.5 million for Pediatric Cardiac Services at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

BERNARDO GETS SPORTY: As a sign of its increasing commitment to sportswear, Bernardo Fashions has hired two executives to work in its new division. Paula Correri has been named national sales manager for sportswear and Analise Hellman is now head sportswear designer.

Bernardo’s first full sportswear collection hits stores for fall 2004. Known as an outerwear label, Bernardo has put a greater emphasis on sportswear pieces in recent seasons in response to retail requests. Sportswear accounts for 25 percent of the company’s total sales.

The brand’s easy-care machine-washable pieces have generated $220 million in retail sales, and another $100 million in sales is expected this year, a company spokesman said.

Correri previously worked as a market specialist in casual sportswear at the Doneger Group and Hellman was a sportswear designer at May Department Stores Co. Both report to Stuart Pollack, president of Bernardo Fashions. Hellman also reports to Stephane Dodeman, creative director.

KEEPING IT LIGHT: Belfe is trying to lighten the load for travelers and skiers with its new featherweight down jacket. Weighing in at 388 grams, the jacket is made with feathers from the necks and breasts of Siberian geese, which are said to be the smallest and warmest feathers. The average down jacket weighs between 500 and 800 grams.The jacket will retail for $688 when it ships next month to a handful of stores in the U.S. Lavender, pink and orange were the most popular colors, based on fall orders, a company spokeswoman said. In recent seasons, the company has extended its distribution beyond ski shops to better specialty stores.

“Belfe was one of the first companies to start producing coats with down feathers,” she said. “The company tries to find flattering ways to wear down jackets so women don’t look frumpy.”

Based in Italy, Belfe is known for its active-inspired outerwear and sportswear made of technical fabrics. The company also owns and manufacturers the Post Card label and produces Chanel Sport and Christian Dior outerwear, as well as Giorgio Armani. Belfe plans to open a freestanding store in Milan Friday, when the city will be buzzing with buyers and editors in town for the fashion shows. The unit will be the company’s fourth.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Instead of using a catalog to showcase its outerwear and loden wool garments, Schneiders has opted for The Looker, a fictional newspaper, to show off its new styles. About 20 items are featured in the publication, which is being sent to many of its 150 U.S. accounts with their fall orders. The new format is designed for retail and consumer buyers.

Sales assistant Ina Herzlich said, “We wanted to do something for retailers to have in their stores to give to customers.”

Stores had the option of personalizing The Looker with their respective store logos. Schneiders had “a much bigger response than expected” for posters and display cases that coordinate with The Looker, Herzlich said.

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