After 17 years of shunning the spotlight, custom designer John Anthony invited the press to take in his new 57th Street atelier and 20 looks from his fall couture collection. Models in Anthony’s classically glamorous clothes, Verdura jewelry and Rene Mancini shoes weaved through the Old New York crowd, whichincluded fans like Joan Collins and Rita Moreno.

While the lean, clean dresses in black jersey were reminiscent of Anthony’s former contemporary Halston, he also swung to the other extreme with pieces like a bronze-beaded column gown and a sequined animal-print chenille jacket with white fox fur cuffs.

Though he mostly showed evening wear, Anthony’s self-proclaimed strong point is daywear. A good part of his clientele comes to him for "wardrobing," which, in addition to the proper clothes for the season, includes finishing them off with high-end accessories to match: shoes from Mancini and Manolo Blahnik, jewelry from Verdura and Van Cleef & Arpels, bags from Lana Marks and the occasional hat from Suzanne Millinery.

While Anthony has been approached by high-end department stores, he seems perfectly happy dealing directly with his ladies. "Service is the way of the world today," he says. "People are starving for it." And those in the know — J.Lo and Nicole Kidman, for starters — are starving for Anthony’s clothes. "His clothes are everything that is missing from fashion today: elegant and subtle," said Moreno, who made an appointment to meet with Anthony on Monday. "I’ve known his clothes since the Seventies, but I could never afford them. Now it’s time."

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