NAOMI AND OPRAH: Sources say Naomi Campbell was on her best behavior Wednesday during a visit to Chicago’s Harpo Studios, where she sat down with Oprah Winfrey to tape an episode of Winfrey’s talk show. With her mother, Valerie, and boyfriend, Vladimir Doronin, in the audience, Campbell opened up about recent incidents — including walking out of an ABC News interview (and slugging the producer’s camera) last week when asked about a “blood diamond” allegedly given to her by former Liberian president Charles Taylor — and accusations, such as the reported dustup she had with a hired driver while in New York last month. Cambpell also discussed the less tabloidesque parts of her life and career in fashion, even shedding tears when Valerie, from the audience, spoke about her daughter’s childhood. But the gist, insiders say, was that Campbell has mended her ways — again. And to drive home the point, Campbell not only took Winfrey’s “No Phone Zone” pledge to stop using her phone while driving, but also agreed to sign a “No Phone Throwing Zone” pledge, which Winfrey promised to draw up and deliver to the supermodel post-show. Campbell’s episode will air on Monday.
— Nick Axelrod
A TAKE ON COUTURE: What’s a couturier to do when Ladies Who Lunch from New York to Los Angeles decide that those high-priced, one-of-a-kind designs no longer have a place in their wardrobe? Look elsewhere, naturally and, right now, that means Russia and the Middle East. The cover story in the new issue of WSJ. takes on the topic of couture and how designers are rethinking the business. Nancy Hass writes that some designers, including Valentino and Givenchy, are taking steps to modernize and appeal to younger women, while others are trying to bridge the gap through made-for-occasion couture that caters to celebrities during each Hollywood awards season. “They may not pay for the couture gowns they wear, but they walk red carpets and provide fashion houses with a global platform to keep couture on everyone’s radar,” Hass writes. “Elie Saab, though much of the industry turns its nose up at his intricately detailed beaded creations, figured this out years ago.”
To the younger generation, Hass said the very notion of couture seems old fashioned and fusty, “a relic of the Betsy Bloomingdale and Nancy Reagan era.” A prime example is Lizzie Tisch, who is married to Loews Hotels chairman Jonathan Tisch and chair of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Friends of the Costume Institute. Tisch has never been to Paris for the couture collections and doesn’t have time for fittings. “Couture is not really something my friends and I think about for ourselves,” she says, adding, “I can buy a Balmain jacket off the rack at Barneys or Bergdorf Goodman that I can wear with my J. Crew T-shirt and I’m not worried I’ll see it on someone else, so what’s the point of buying couture?”
But perhaps the most pessimistic view came from Oscar de la Renta — who for years did couture at Balmain and trained with Cristobal Balenciaga but who now calls the art “completely irrelevant,” noting it’s not necessary to promote a brand. “Customers are smart,” de la Renta says. “They know that a $10,000 wedding dress will look as beautiful as a $1 million wedding dress. Maybe it will not be finished the same way inside, but who will know?”
— Amy Wicks
MARTHA UP: Starting with the June issue, Body + Soul changed its name to Whole Living and it appears advertisers approve of the switch, as the issue is up more than 50 percent in ad revenue compared with last year. Executives at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia shared this news on Wednesday, during a quarterly earnings conference call. Overall, publishing ad revenue rose 11 percent during the first quarter and flagship title Martha Stewart Living saw a 20 percent boost in ad pages for the April issue. The publishing division posted revenues that were essentially flat during the period, at $28.3 million. Total revenues for the company were up almost 6 percent to $53.2 million, while the net loss was narrowed to $3.8 million from $16.8 million, which resulted from an impairment charge in the merchandising segment.
COULDN’T PREVENT THIS: After four years, Liz Vaccariello has stepped down as senior vice president and editor in chief of Prevention magazine, but she will remain with Rodale as a spokeswoman for the books she’s written, such as “Flat Belly Diet!” Vaccariello indicated she’s leaving Prevention to pursue new opportunities but no word on what she’ll do next. Perhaps more books or an expanded presence on TV (she has made guest appearances on CBS’ “The Doctors,” as well as “The Today Show,” “Live With Regis and Kelly” and “Dr. Phil”). A search has begun for her successor.