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Von Furstenberg’s Caravan Serai

NEW YORK — Diane Von Furstenberg takes her role as downtown den mother seriously.<br><br>The designer, who stays in the loop by surrounding herself with young people who work in her studio and store, returns the favor by doling out advice and...

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NEW YORK — Diane Von Furstenberg takes her role as downtown den mother seriously.

The designer, who stays in the loop by surrounding herself with young people who work in her studio and store, returns the favor by doling out advice and life lessons. She also lets her young friends in on her favorite resources for everything from lighting to table linens.

She’ll do the same for the public, when she unveils the Caravan Serai at her West Village Theater at 385 West 12 Street on Dec. 6, replete with handmade products from an international group of designers. The event closes Dec. 8.

The Caravan is inspired by bazaars Von Furstenberg has seen in central Asia, but it’s doubtful that Christian Louboutin’s bejeweled and embroidered Cinderella shoes — designed specifically for the Caravan — or Princess Marie Chantal of Greece’s children’s apparel would be found in any market in Marakesh or Istanbul.

The princess is the sister of Von Furstenberg’s daughter-in-law, Alexandra.

Other participants include Lainey Keogh, the Irish knitwear designer; Sandra Muller, a jewelry designer who is opening her first store in Los Angeles, and Gaia Franchetti, who makes handwoven and hand-dyed table linens and pillows for Indoroman. Zina Ghandour, a friend of Alexandra’s, will be showing her beaded handbags for Orest London.

“I get a thrill when I see people with ideas and dreams, and if I can help, that’s nice,” Von Furstenberg said. “They come and they run their own little shops. I’m really giving them a roof and exposure.

“The Caravan Serai is something I’ve always fantasized about,” she added. “The merchants who traveled the Silk Route opened their trunks and showed their treasures. I have a lot of friends who sell things you can’t find anywhere else.”

Von Furstenberg’s finds include Project Alabama’s T-shirts, leather wear by Studio 109, which has made pieces for Lenny Kravitz, jewelry by Kirat Young, photos by Konstantino Hatzisarros and handbags by Debra Linse and Pauline Solnik of Notorious, a Houston-based design team.

Jean Paul Beaujard will show his furniture and lighting. Romio Shrestha, a Tibetan artist Von Furstenberg met “either through Madonna or Deepak Chopra, I don’t remember,” will exhibit his intricate murals of Buddhist deities. (Von Furstenberg bought one of his monumental paintings for her dining room.)

This story first appeared in the November 26, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

She’ll donate 10 percent of sales to the Robin Hood Foundation.

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