By  on May 10, 2007

NEW YORK — Hours before the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Monday night, Diane von Furstenberg wasn't putting the finishing touches on her dress or having her hair done. The designer was in her new 2,100-square-foot Meatpacking District store here talking with customers and offering advice.

With ears tuned to catch bits of conversation, von Furstenberg detected a foreign accent across the room. "Are you Brazilian?" she called to a customer. "Yes, from Brasilia," the woman replied. Displaying her many connections to the powerful and privileged, von Furstenberg asked the shopper if she knew Tassos Jereissati, governor of the Brazilian state of Ceara. "Oh, yes," said the woman, "I know him and his wife. We see them all the time."

When von Furstenberg realized the woman was waiting for a dressing room, she told a sales associate, "Let's get a room for this lady," and went off to find the contractor who is building them.

"I need those rooms," von Furstenberg told the contractor, pointing to stairs leading to the lower level where four VIP dressing rooms will be built. The purple-carpeted VIP fitting rooms will be used for civilian customers when the main floor rooms are occupied.

Open just three days, the flagship at 874 Washington Street still had some kinks to work out, but von Furstenberg didn't want to hear any excuses. "We're pushing to have [the changing rooms] ready on Friday," the contractor said. "Why so long?" von Furstenberg asked.

Von Furstenberg was one of the first designers to believe in the far West Village when, in 2001, she opened a store, studio, office and residence on West 12th Street. Now that she's moved a few blocks north, the Meatpacking District has become a bona fide fashion zone.

The flagship is part of a larger complex under construction that will include the DVF headquarters, a 150-seat theater, showroom, studio, offices and an apartment for the designer.

Jeffrey New York is across from the complex on West 14th Street. To welcome von Furstenberg, the message "We [heart symbol] DVF" in huge letters appeared on Jeffrey's windows. Opposite the DVF store entrance on Washington Street is the Scoop fiefdom, with Scoop Kids, Scoop Men's, Scoop NYC and Scoop Street. The High Line elevated railway passes above Washington Street and Tenth Avenue and over the DVF building. The Whitney Museum of Art and the Standard Hotel are coming to the area. Farther east, an Apple store is said to be opening at 401 West 14th Street.

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