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GAGA FOR HOLLY RUSSELL: Lady Gaga, who’s prone to provocative bodysuits and, as she says, “zoo animal” clothing, accepted the 2009 Billboard Magazine Rising Star Award at The Pierre in New York Friday in a gown so sheer and loosely flowing with a long train that there was little left to the imagination from the waist down, while the top was flamboyantly covered in feathers and hair. “It’s from an up-and-coming new London designer,” she said, later learned to be Holly Russell. Initially at the brunch-award ceremony, sponsored by Macy’s, Lady Gaga was choked up. “It’s just that my parents are here, and there’s my fabulous publicist with a hanky.” Regaining her composure, she explained the origins of her unique style, citing “the street, the local bar and leather jackets. But now my inspiration is my fans.” She did put in a word about her “hippie” mother’s influence. “I fondly remember mother sticking pipe cleaners on T-shirts, so I’m not all to blame.” A comparatively conservative Beyoncé Knowles accepted Billboard’s Woman of the Year award, wearing a striking and revealing Catherine Malandrino dress.
FALL DRESSING: Kara Ross is treading slowly into apparel with her first custom-made dress, but devotees fear not: It’s still all about the bag. The accessories designer created a one-of-a-kind, hand-felted dress, onto which she sewed more than 4,500 Swarovski crystals in the shape of her signature python Nox bag, complete with its classic hardware and carnelian gemstone. The couture piece, known as the Purse dress, will be featured in the Fifth Avenue window of Henri Bendel from Nov. 3 to 9 and will then travel with Ross to Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Harrods in London, both of which house her jewelry and handbag collections. “It’s funny, it’s whimsical and it was so fun to do,” Ross said. “I’ve been collecting vintage for years and I have this amazing jacket with a faux pocket and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to do something similar?’” Ross recently redesigned her Web site and included a video by Adam McClelland that features her daughter, Avery McCann, as the face of the brand.
CERRUTI’S NEW MAN: Cerruti has appointed Richard Nicoll as its women’s wear designer. The first collection of the 32-year-old British-born, Australian-based designer will be presented at Paris Fashion Week in March, marking the return of Cerruti’s women’s runway shows after an absence of three years. “Cerutti has a strong DNA, and the brand speaks to what I do — elegant tailoring,” Nicoll told WWD. He added his contract is for three seasons and he will continue to present his own label in London.
SITTING PRETTY: A vivid red lip sofa was among the objects the likes of Liliane Bettencourt, Ines de la Fressange and Jacques Grange ogled Thursday night at the Jean-Michel Frank retrospective at the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. The exhibition, which runs until Jan. 3, features a selection of furniture and objects — many of which originated from the private collection of Saint Laurent and Bergé — in addition to photographs of interiors Frank designed for buildings such as Rockefeller Center in New York.
WHEN IN ROME?: Would Rome’s historic splendor offer a better backdrop to the Italian collections than gritty, industrial Milan? It’s an idea percolating among some in the industry’s upper echelons. According to sources, certain Italian brands and government officials have held preliminary talks about capitalizing on Rome’s status as a key transportation hub and burgeoning cultural capital. “We’re definitely looking into it,” said one executive at an Italian house, requesting anonymity. It is understood Rome is developing land between its airport and the city center that could be attractive to major events, such as fashion shows. Most observers say chances of shifting shows to Rome are slim to nil, given Milan’s concentration of showrooms — not to mention permanent runway theaters for a number of major brands and the $1 billion Città della Moda, or Fashion City, under construction. Of course, you-know-where wasn’t built in a day.
FISHER PRICE: Eileen Fisher may be the butt of a joke in Nora and Delia Ephron’s new play “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” but co-star Rosie O’Donnell isn’t laughing. At the show’s opening party at the Bryant Park Grill on Thursday night, the outspoken comedienne — who appears alongside a rotating ensemble cast that includes Rita Wilson, Natasha Lyonne, Kristin Chenoweth and Rhea Perlman — said she’s a loyal Eileen Fisher customer and didn’t agree with the script’s jab at the brand. (One character opines, “I just want to say, that when you start wearing Eileen Fisher, you might as well say, ‘I give up.’”) “When we did the first reading of the play, I said to Nora, ‘I’m really objecting to the Eileen Fisher comment being that I just purchased every single thing she makes and threw out everything else I own,’” recalled O’Donnell, who selected a navy jacket from the label for the occasion. “Literally, my entire wardrobe is only Eileen Fisher…that and sweat suits.”
RANK AND FILE: What’s the hottest international designer brand right now? According to a survey of Japanese retailers just published by The Senken newspaper and being handed out at the Paris shows, it’s Alexander Wang, who scored double the votes of runner-up Givenchy in its seasonal survey. Rounding out the top 10 were, in the following order, Balmain, Undercover, Prada, Dries Van Noten, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Comme des Garçons and Yves Saint Laurent. Meanwhile, French buyers polled by Le Journal du Textile had Lanvin first, Balenciaga second and Dries Van Noten third. Jean Paul Gaultier, who had been ranked number one since 2004, dropped to fifth place.
RETAIL LINK: One name being bandied about as the next possible chief executive officer of Bank of America is that of Robert Kaplan, a Harvard University business professor and former Goldman Sachs vice chairman. Those with very long memories of the retail world also will recall that Kaplan has ties to Macy’s. “He spearheaded the Macy’s [leveraged buyout]. He was a kid at the time and probably learned more from that LBO than he ever could at Harvard,” said a retail source. “He won over everybody. He was a very bright kid.” No one, however, foresaw the outcome. The LBO in 1986 saddled the retailer with huge debt and ultimately proved to be a big factor in Macy’s bankruptcy in 1992. If he gets the job, Kaplan would succeed Kenneth Lewis, who resigned as Bank of America’s ceo Wednesday.
HONORING JOHNSON: Betsey Johnson will be honored by The National Arts Club’s fashion committee on Oct. 13, when she will receive The Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion. The black-tie event will be held at the club located at 15 Gramercy Park South in New York, beginning at 6:30 p.m. “I’m so excited, honored and thrilled. It doesn’t get any better than this,” Johnson said of the award. Johnson’s business partner, Chantal Bacon, will introduce the designer along with International Fashion Syndicate editor Marylou Luther. Artist Dianne B. Bernhard is also at work on a painted portrait of Johnson that will be presented to the designer and eventually hang at the club.
SHOP GIRLS: The cash register at Dior’s 57th Street boutique in New York was a hotbed of activity on Thursday evening, when the label teamed up with Caroline Kennedy and Wendi Murdoch to host a shopping event to raise money for The Fund for Public Schools. During the course of the two-hour fete, guests rung up $67,000 worth of merchandise, 15 percent of which went directly to the charity. (The night’s biggest sale — a $25,000 fur coat — helped things along.) Those who missed out on Thursday’s action still have the opportunity to get involved: Dior is donating a portion of all sales from the Lady Dior Collection made at its 57th Street and Madison Avenue stores to The Fund for Public Schools through Wednesday.
AZZARO IN LONDON: Azzaro is making its presence on London’s Mount Street permanent. After opening a pop-up shop on the chic street for six weeks during February and March, the Paris fashion house has now acquired a 1,100-square-foot space at 119 Mount Street. The store is due to open in February and will stand nearby to Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Goyard and Christian Louboutin boutiques on the street. Azzaro plans to host an event to celebrate the store’s launch around the time of London Fashion Week, a spokeswoman for the label said. The move was handled by Wilson McHardy, the retail leasing agent for the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate, which owns most of the property on Mount Street.
BOW WOW: Italian designer Albino D’Amato serves up bows 12 ways in a romantic collection for Yoox this month. Prices range from $280 for a rhinestone headband to $1,650 for a wool coat, and everything is made in Italy. Yoox has in the past collaborated with designers such as Jeremy Scott and Hussein Chalayan on special collections.
GRAPE EXPECTATIONS: Always one to surprise, Maison Martin Margiela has been hired to redecorate a suite at Les Sources de Caudalie “vinotherapy” spa near Bordeaux, which is feting its 10th anniversary this year. The one-bedroom accommodation perched on stilts, called Ile aux Oiseaux, will be unveiled in mid-December amid Château Smith Haut-Lafitte’s vineyards. Margiela’s decor signatures include trompe l’oeil, white cotton sheets and mirrors.