ITALIAN INITIATIVE: In an act of patriotic spirit, Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace, Valentino Garavani and Gianfranco Ferre are curbing their normally competitive tendencies and coming together to stage a fashion show in Rome’s Piazza Navona. It is slated to take place tonight barring the continuation of rainstorms in Rome. The show, entitled “Una Notte a Roma Con … “, or “A Night in Rome With … ” will be broadcast on Italian television channel Rai Uno on Thursday, coinciding with a local holiday marking the birth of the Italian republic and, perhaps more famously, the start of a long weekend. Models flanked by the fountains in one of Italy’s most beautiful squares will don fashions including Armani’s haute couture Prive collection and the other designers’ most famous celebrity gowns and recent creations. There’s a long guest list of personalities expected: Valentino is inviting Gwyneth Paltrow, while Versace has called on the presence of Rupert Everett, Dante Ferretti and Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis to fill out the front row.

STRENESSE TO N.Y.: German fashion label Strenesse is saying auf Wiedersehen to Italy and guten tag to America. The company, which has historically staged its runway shows in Milan, will move its presentation to New York Fashion Week starting this September. “North America is a high-priority market for the group and we have been reassessing the way we do things,” explained Deb Maxwell, president and chief executive officer of Strenesse USA. The date of the show has not been confirmed, but Maxwell said it will take place in the tents at Bryant Park. In the U.S., the line is sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Stanley Korshak, Tootsies in Houston, Mitchells of Westport, Conn., and Richards in Greenwich, Conn. Beginning in the fall, it will also be available at Bloomindgale’s, Maxwell added.

HERMAN HONOR: Stan Herman is well-known to the fashion industry as a designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, but few in this business know he’s also a devout opera fan and singer. Last week, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis honored Herman as well as Judith and Samuel Peabody for their efforts in the fight against AIDS with a special gala concert called “Music for Life at Lincoln Center.” When Herman got up on stage to accept the honor, he struck a note and held it for about seven seconds, to thunderous applause. “For me, there is nothing more beautiful than the human voice,” Herman said. Herman has devoted two decades to GMHC and raised more than $12 million with the CFDA. That evening’s mistress of ceremonies was drag queen diva Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh, and the gala featured several singers who performed songs from operas like “Carmen,” “La Boheme,” “Turandot” and “Tannhauser.”

This story first appeared in the June 1, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

NOW AND ZEN: Don’t even bother trying to get anyone from Hearst on the phone this week. The editors in chief and publishers of most of the company’s women’s magazines will be out in the Arizona desert at Hearst’s annual “Mind Body Soul” retreat. Held at Miraval spa, the three-day event is a junket for big advertisers and a schmoozefest for everybody else. This year’s offerings include speeches by choreographer Twyla Tharp and lawyer Gloria Allred, a performance by singer Melissa Etheridge, and activities ranging from mountain biking to photography. There will also be a shopping night hosted by Shop Etc. and something called Zen Bootcamp, for anyone looking to empty her mind rather than fill her swag bag.

GUEST APPEARANCE: Kenzo Takada presented pieces of the Gokan Kobo collection he designed for French mail-order giant 3 Suisses last week in Paris. “I wanted to design something elegant yet easy to understand,” said the designer at the presentation. Four years ago, Takada “retired” from his namesake house, now owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, only to return last year with a fashion and lifestyle Gokan Kobo label. The affordable Gokan Kobo collection for 3 Suisses touches on ethnic detailing and intricate rose embroideries and ranges in price from $55, or 44 euros, for a gypsy-inspired skirt to $111, or 89 euros, for an embroidered chiffon blouse. The collection also includes accessories and housewares for the fall catalogue.

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