LAS VEGAS — A trio of water nymphs performing dance moves in a reflecting pool, three models standing in another pool wearing long gowns — with enough feathers to make a peacock jealous — and Ascot-meets-Philip Treacy hats were among the sights at the opening party here Thursday for The Palazzo resort, hotel and casino and Barneys New York.

Women in togas and men wearing loincloths, looking as if they had escaped from Caesars Palace, stood preening on ledges on either side of a huge waterfall as orchestral renditions of rock songs such as “Born to Run” played in the background. At one point, acrobats descended from the ledge on red cords tied to their ankles.

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Las Vegas is about nothing so much as contradictions. Barneys executives, ensconced in their three-level, 81,000-square-foot store, seemed oblivious to the fashion crimes being committed outside their door.

A cast of bold-faced names paraded down a red carpet and into a celebrity holding pen, while others wandered into Barneys to check out the merch. “This is the most brilliant, hilarious, fun opening,” said Barney’s creative director, Simon Doonan, standing beside “Desperate Housewives” star Nicolette Sheridan. “I feel like Margaret Mead. I’m studying Las Vegas. It’s such a cross section of people.”

Hilary Swank sat in a corner with some friends, refusing to speak to the press and prompting some to wonder why she came out at all. But Mandy Moore, Rebecca Romijn and Angie Harmon were effusive, revealing that they snuck into Barneys before the opening for a private spree. “It was like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” said Moore, who bought a pair of sparkly Lanvin shoes. Romijn, who scored three pairs of Lanvin shoes and a Marc Jacobs dress, said, “I grew up on Seventh Avenue and 17th Street in Manhattan [site of the original Barneys]. The stuff here is different for Las Vegas.”

The Palazzo, which is linked on three levels to the adjoining Venetian property, is the tallest hotel on the Strip at 50 stories. The 450,000-square-foot Shoppes at The Palazzo features Diane von Furstenberg, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bottega Veneta and Coach, among others, but most have yet to open.

Dressed in a drapy pale gold Donna Karan dress, Claire Danes admitted it was her first trip to Las Vegas. But she didn’t come to shop. “There was a big sale at Harvey Nichols in London,” she said. “I did my damage there.”

The actress, who just finished starring in “Pygmalion” on Broadway, favors New York designers. “I’m very biased,” she said. “I’m very good friends with Zac Posen and Narciso Rodriguez. I think Ben Cho is really great. [But] I also love Lanvin and Balenciaga.”

Christina Ricci was also taking a hiatus from shopping. “I’m not allowed to buy any clothes right now,” she said. “I’ve reached my quota.” But there were no restrictions on gambling. “I really love gambling.”

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