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SIENNA GOES TO COURT: Complaining about the paparazzi is part and parcel of most celebrities’ repertoire, but it seems Sienna Miller is hoping her gripe with one picture agency will make history. On Thursday, Miller lodged a harassment and privacy claim at London’s High Court against Big Pictures, a London-based picture agency, and its owner, Darryn Lyons. At an initial hearing, at which Miller wasn’t present, her lawyer David Sherborne called the agency’s photographers’ pursuit of Miller in recent months “a gross and intolerable violation of her rights.”
Miller’s lawyers, 5RB, said in a summary of the hearing that the actress is claiming injunctive relief and damages for “a campaign of harassment since June 2008.” The firm said Miller’s case is the first to use Britain’s 1997 Protection From Harassment Act against the paparazzi, adding Big Pictures’ photographers had both employed dangerous methods, such as driving through red lights, and engaged in intimidating or abusive behavior in the course of obtaining pictures of her. “Ms. Miller claims that the effect of this upon her has been substantial, seriously frightening her and causing her huge distress and anxiety,” the firm said. A spokesman for Big Pictures could not be reached for comment Friday, but British press reports said Lyons and the agency are contesting Miller’s claims. The case is expected to be heard in full early next year.
— Nina Jones
OUTSOURCING: The cuts at Condé Nast Publications Inc. have even hit Richard Beckman’s department. The president of Condé Nast Media Group said Friday that responsibilities of the direct response department would now be outsourced, resulting in the loss of 10 jobs. Mediamax, which has been handling local advertising for the company for five years, will be given the added duties. Fashion Rocks and Movies Rock were put on hiatus last week.
— Amy Wicks
MYSTERY SOLVED: Upon hearing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was given (or loaned, according to the John McCain campaign) a brand new wardrobe worth $150,000, media observers quickly called out the Alaska governor, with some branding her a diva and questioning the values of the “hockey mom.” The Web soon became filled with stories wondering what Palin was thinking — but over at wowOwow.com, one columnist with the nom de plume of the Etceterist decided to have a little fun with Palin’s plight, saying her new wardrobe revelation could actually be good for fashion. “So, go Sarah, go! Instead of shrinking, lying, deflecting, come out of the closet and, yes, yes, yes, declare it: ‘I am a fashionista in a recessionista world! I am a proud wearer of good clothing! I wake up thinking of shoes. I get my hair done, my nails, my makeup.…I read Vogue! I was in Vogue!’”
Who was this mysterious columnist? William Norwich, contributing editor at Vogue, was behind the Palin post (as well as many others, covering various topics) and he’s ready to come clean. “They wanted me to bring the lighter side to the site,” Norwich told WWD. “I’m going to continue posting about once a week about people in the style world.” Joni Evans, who is also Norwich’s former literary agent, said he’s the only male contributor to the site, which was founded by an all-female group that included Evans, Liz Smith, Mary Wells and Lesley Stahl. “He has a different point of view on things. We are thrilled to have him add some joy and show a lighter side of things.”
WHO WOULD WIN?: Travel + Leisure held a meeting to examine the state of the luxury business on the same day last week as the small-scale bloodletting at parent company American Express Publishing, and at the Plaza Hotel — which underwent a $400 million facelift only to walk straight into a recession and a particularly tough moment for luxury hotels. So no matter how brave a face panelists put on, there was no ignoring the bad news. “If anyone here wants to have a contest of ‘my industry is worse than yours,’ I’ll take you up on it,” said John Howell, the product-marketing director for General Motors’ Cadillac, on a business panel moderated by T+L publisher J.P. Kyrillos. (No one took him up on it.) All panelists, among them Bob Mitchell, co-president of Mitchells of Westport and two other high-end stores, stressed the need for personal attention and customer service with wealthy, but skittish, clients.
A keynote by Saks Fifth Avenue president Ron Frasch indicated, among other things, that in the absence of disposable income, customers can find their own value in high-end retail. Three wedding proposals have taken place in the 10022-SHOE zip code. “It’s a little sick, but it happened,” said Frasch. Asked about his marketing budget during these belt-tightening times, Frasch replied, “We’re trying to reduce costs everywhere,” and said he would have to take a hard look at the company’s entire structure — “everything but our selling organization, frankly.”
— Irin Carmon