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A GOOD TIME: Vacheron Constantin is hitting the rays in South Beach. Tonight the 253-year-old watch firm will play host to the Overseas tasting event and live auction in celebration of its first ever U.S. limited edition Overseas Chronograph. Held during this week’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival and sponsored by Yachting Magazine, the event will be held aboard the Dream Seeker, a 140-foot yacht at the Miami Beach Marina. Both the tasting event and live auction will be hosted by Padma Lakshmi, author and host of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

CASA FENDI: Carla Fendi, who recently sold her shares in the Fendi fashion house to majority owner LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has treated herself to a new apartment in Paris, on the picturesque Place de Furstenberg near Saint-Germain-des-Pres. “It was a moment of good fortune,” Fendi said at the Emilio Pucci show about her find in one of the most exclusive areas in Paris. She said her niece Simona Formilli and architect Cesare Rovatti are redecorating the apartment, which will be ready in April.

This story first appeared in the February 22, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

LA VIE EN ROSE: There were Laduree macaroons, free-flowing Ruinart champagne, waiters in berets and a chanteuse channeling Edith Piaf Wednesday night outside the new Roger Vivier boutique on the Via Sant’Andrea. “We wanted to bring the French spirit here with a touch of humor,” said Bruno Frisoni, Vivier’s creative director. “We are playing with clichés,” echoed brand ambassador Inès de la Fressange, who helped decorate the store, inspired by the founding designer’s Quai d’Orsay apartment, with such unique pieces as Picasso engravings and African tribal masks. Agnelli heir Lapo Elkann exchanged high-fives and back-slapping with Emanuele Della Valle, son of Vivier’s owner Diego Della Valle. “I’m returning Diego’s visit,” said Elkann, referring to his Italia Independent trunk show held across the street earlier in the evening. Rumor has it Elkann is gearing up to take part in a Louis Vuitton car rally in China later this year.

OUT OF AFRICA: Benetton pulled out all the stops for last week’s launch of its new corporate advertising campaign “Africa Works.” For starters, Alessandro Benetton welcomed 100 journalists to Dakar for a press conference and concert hosted by Youssou N’Dour. Christopher Mason and FIT’s Valerie Steele were among the guests who learned about how the campaign promotes the Birima micro-credit program in Senegal, a cooperative credit society founded by the Senegalese singer. For the print and outdoor ads, James Mollison photographed Senegalese workers, who have used micro loans to start small, productive businesses, using the tools of their trades against a neutral background. As an offshoot of Africa Works, Patti Smith helped N’Dour record a fresh version of “Birima,” a song he first recorded in 2000. N’Dour said, “Africa doesn’t want charity, it wants repayable subsidized loans.”

PRESENT TENSE: “I’m pretending I’m a supermodel,” Patrick Dempsey said before the Versace show Thursday night. The TV hunk said he’s enjoying his role as the star of Versace’s men’s wear campaign, but confessed to feeling “more nervous” about fielding questions from the fashion pack and posing for the paparazzi than being a presenter at the Academy Awards on Sunday. Dempsey’s next flick, “Made of Honor” with Michelle Monaghan, is due in theaters in March. In the meantime, Dempsey and Donatella Versace will be on Italian television on Sunday, guests of a popular (taped) talk show usually tilted to soccer. Megan Fox also took in the Versace show just before setting off to film “Jennifer’s Body” in Vancouver, written by Diablo Cody, Oscar nominee this year for “Juno.” The young actress has her idol tattooed on her right arm: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m not obsessed by her, but I really admire how she represents Hollywood,” said Fox.

MUSICAL CHAIRS: “I put my foot down,” Fergie said backstage at Dsquared on Thursday morning. “I wanted some time off to enjoy fashion week. It’s a fun, creative outlet for me.” Might she consider launching her own fashion line? “Possibly, but later. I’m absorbing it all for the time being,” said the singer, who plans to attend the Oscars and then head to Tokyo for a performance on Feb. 27.

Later in the day at Dolce & Gabbana, American politics was Fergie’s preferred topic, but she was split on whether to back Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. “Both. I would go for the tag team, the double card,” she said.

Joining her in the front row were Lindsay Lohan, Sheryl Crow, Monica Bellucci, Fanny Ardant and Naomi Campbell. Crow was taking a break from promoting her new album “Detours,” and said she hoped the designers might help with her next look on stage. “It would be fantastic if they did more of these patterned trousers with a slimmer cut and the cool feminine rock tops that they’ve done in the past.”

Lohan — whose nude “Marilyn” pics for New York magazine have been burning up the Internet all week — is busy recording her latest album, which should come out “in less than a year,” and is due to start working on “new films in April,” though she wasn’t offering specifics. She added she’d like to design handbags or shoes for a fashion brand — or even her own collection, “maybe down the line.”

French actress Ardant, just back from filming “Hello Goodbye” in Israel with Gerard Dépardieu, predicted Tel Aviv could become more important than New York in 10 years. “There is so much electricity and energy,” she enthused.

‘SURPRISE GUESTS: St. John’s Marie and Kelly Gray are expected to attend next Friday’s Chanel show in Paris, but those who might be surprised by their presence should know that it’s all in the name of a good cause. At a Girls Inc. event in Newport Beach, Calif., last October, Marie Gray outbid the crowd for an auction package that included two tickets to the Chanel show and a tour of Coco Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment (Barbara Cirkva, Chanel’s division president for fashion, watch and fine jewelry, was a keynote speaker at the event). It remains to be seen if the mother-and-daughter team will sport Chanel or St. John for the occasion.

FULL COURT: After staging a Fendi show atop the Great Wall of China in Beijing, Karl Lagerfeld is next tackling the courtyard at LVMH’s Paris headquarters, which hosts a giant Richard Serra sculpture. Lagerfeld plans to show a Fendi collection in the French capital for the first time next Friday in tandem with the opening of Fendi’s new Avenue Montaigne boutique. “Karl came up with a novel way of showing: It’s not static and it’s not runway,” hinted Fendi honcho Michael Burke backstage, noting, “The back of the store actually opens on to the courtyard.” Lagerfeld will show Fendi’s fall-winter line and host a party with surprise performances and DJs.

NEED A HUG?: Everybody’s got strategies for dealing with a challenging business climate, but Jack Mitchell, chairman and chief executive officer of Mitchells/Richards/Marshs, has made it into an art form. Known for creating a hugging culture that has earned his specialty stores a reputation for personal service, Mitchell is about to publish his second book next month called “Hug Your People: The Proven Way to Hire, Inspire, and Recognize Your Employees to Achieve Remarkable Results.” In his new book, Mitchell explores how relationships are the heart of every transaction and drive successful businesses. The book is a follow-up to Mitchell’s 2003 bestseller, “Hug Your Customer,” which sold 165,000 copies (and inspired 192 speeches, on Mitchell’s part). “It’s the logical sequel,” said Mitchell, noting that he’s launched a Web site and will be hitting the road with his new book. Still, the retailer, who walks about his Richards store in Greenwich, Conn., with a tape measure around his neck, added, “I love my day job.”

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