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A TALE OF TWO CITIES: As French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, prepare to land in London today on a state visit, Sarko fever is gripping the British capital. This being Britain, papers are chattering about her racy past — “She boasts at least one British knight, Sir Mick Jagger, among her past conquests,” crowed The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday. Others, meanwhile, are pondering how many kudos a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II will earn the controversial president. “Despite having dispatched its own royal family by means of the guillotine, France has retained an abiding fascination with ours,” said The Times on Saturday. And everyone seems enchanted by the fact that Sarkozy, in true French fashion, is bringing une autre femme on the trip — his 81-year-old mother, Andrée Sarkozy.
They’ve sure got their work cut out for them over the next 48 hours, and Bruni-Sarkozy is said to be packing a wardrobe filled with Dior and other French designers to show off her taste. In addition to the official visits, there is a stack of social ones, too. Today, shortly after arriving at Heathrow, the Sarkozys are expected to break bread with the Queen during a private lunch at Windsor Castle, and later view a selection of Anglo-French memorabilia from the Royal Collection. That evening, the Queen will give a white-tie state banquet at the castle.
On Thursday, the real socializing begins, with a ladies’ charity lunch hosted by Sarah Brown, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife, in honor of Bruni-Sarkozy at Lancaster House, near St. James’s Park. The 150 guests are expected to include Dame Judi Dench, Annie Lennox, Sabrina Guinness, Amanda Wakeley, Emma Freud and Lady Antonia Fraser. The lunch is in support of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safer Motherhood, which campaigns to reduce maternal mortality.
That night, London’s bigwigs will take their turn as dinner hosts. The City of London Corporation and the Lord Mayor of the City of London, David Lewis, will host a banquet in honor of the Sarkozys at the Guildhall in East London. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester will be the senior royals on hand, and guests will include one of London’s foremost Frenchmen — Arnaud Bamberger, chief of Cartier in the U.K., and his wife, Carla. Perhaps Bamberger will bring along a little bauble for his country’s president.
WEDDING MARCH-ESA: The last thing a bride wants to think about after her big day is more wedding gowns. That’s not the case with Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, though. Chapman, who tied the knot with Harvey Weinstein last December, is busy putting together a capsule Marchesa bridal collection, to be launched next month. She comes at it with experience — not only did Chapman design her own glamorous ivory wedding gown, but she has also created a $200,000 dress for her friend Coleen McLoughlin’s upcoming nuptials to English soccer star Wayne Rooney this summer.
GEHRY’S LONDON DEBUT: Frank Gehry is aiming to bring a slice of urban edge to London’s Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park this summer. The celebrated architect is the latest to put his spin on the gallery’s annual summer pavilion project, for which past creators have included Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Oscar Niemeyer. Gehry has designed a jagged, timber construction set to be unveiled in June, which from initial models looks like a chaotic web of wood, metal and glass spliced together, in which visitors can mill about.
“The pavilion…acts as an urban street running from the park to the existing gallery,” said Gehry. The pavilion — the ninth in the gallery’s history — marks Gehry’s first built structure in England and the architect’s first collaboration with his son, Samuel Gehry. The space, which Gehry likened to an “amphitheater,” is designed to host music, performance and debating events in the four months it exists in the park.
And while the pavilion is a summer project, luckily Gehry is well aware of London’s famously inclement weather — he assures the pavilion will protect against wind and rain, as well as provide shade on those rare sunny days.
X MARKS THE SPOT: Kylie Minogue is the latest pop icon who will take to the stage in Jean Paul Gaultier couture. The Australian singer tapped Gaultier to create all her looks for the “KylieX2008″ European tour, which kicks off in Paris May 6, and winds up in London in August. Giving her latest outing a distinct French accent, she also posed for photographers Pierre & Gilles for her tour program. Gaultier, who outfitted Madonna for her “Confessions” tour in 2006, is keeping busy in the costume department. Rumor has it he’s also in line to create costumes for choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s production of “Snow White” this fall.
HONOR ROLL: Designers Azzedine Alaïa and Gilles Dufour and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton managing director Antonio Belloni are among the latest fashion folk to be decorated with France’s Legion of Honor. Alaïa, Dufour and Belloni were named chevaliers in the government’s traditional Easter promotions. Lee Radziwill also was made a chevalier in the honor system that was founded by Napoléon Bonaparte.
BREAKING SPEED LIMITS: When Speedo launched its LZR Racer last month, it marketed the $550 suit as “the world’s fastest swimsuit.” But with swimmers wearing the LZR Racer already having set 12 world records, questions are being raised about whether the suit is too fast. Although FINA, the sport’s governing body, approved the suit before it launched, it is now reexamining it, particularly for buoyancy issues. But a Speedo spokesman said the company isn’t worried: “We’re delighted that athletes have been competing at such a high level in the world’s fastest swimsuit.”