CELINE SOLUTION: Celine, the only fashion house at LVMH without a name designer, may be closing in on one and sources say the field has been narrowed to Michael Kors and Antonio Berardi. Celine president Nan Legeai is said to be leaning toward Kors, but executives at LVMH favor Berardi.
“Right now I have no comment,” said Kors, who returned to New York from Paris Tuesday afternoon.
As for Berardi, Priyesh Shah, the designer’s right-hand man, confirmed Berardi had been in talks with Celine, but could not hammer out contract terms. Shah pointed out that Berardi has a new backer — the Italian company Givuesse — and is concentrating on developing his own business. He’d pursue Celine only if his firm could clearly benefit from taking on a new collection, Shah said.
Legeai, who was leaving for a trip to Japan, declined to comment on Tuesday’s reports. But when asked recently if she were actively seeking a designer, Legeai responded that she wanted someone to add punch to the ready-to-wear line and liven up the house’s runway show. “I am interested in the concept, but not so interested that I will jump on the first person I see,” Legeai said.

HOLD THAT THOUGHT: WWD reported last week that Santo Versace expects the house’s IPO to be postponed at least nine months from its July, 1998, target date, after Gianni Versace’s murder this summer. However, industry sources are now saying the float has been put on hold indefinitely to see how the Versace business performs without Gianni. Versace and Morgan Stanley, which is set to handle the float, are keeping mum.
It’s no surprise that such an ambitious project would take a back seat to more pressing issues: running the daily business and sorting out Versace’s will, which, as reported, left his stake in the company to his 11-year-old niece, Allegra Beck. Under Italian fiscal law, a state-appointed custodian must now be named to represent the young heiress, which could complicate how the business is run.

STYLE SINNERS: It was bound to happen. Many Italian newspapers accused Dolce & Gabbana of “blasphemy” and “desecration” for using the image of the Madonna in their latest collection. But it doesn’t look as if the boys will go to hell for their Virgin Mary dresses and miraculous medal earrings. Father Gino Concetti, a theologian and editorial writer for the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper l’Osservatore Romano, said that the duo’s biggest sin this season was simply bad taste.
“You don’t desecrate a sacred image by mixing it with a banal object, like a sweater or dress. Isn’t that just common sense? Here in Italy, we call it bad taste,” he explained. Father Concetti added that he’s not even going to mention the episode in his next column. “They’re not worth the effort,” he said with a chuckle.

STOP GUESSING: Guess has snared a choice spot for its first Milan megastore: the Gin Rosa bar in Piazza San Babila, a favorite watering hole of old-style Milanesi. The space measures nearly 70,000 square feet over three floors and occupies a pivotal location at the intersection of the bustling Vittorio Emanuele and Corso Venezia shopping streets. Created by Guess with its Italian partner Gruppo Frattini, the new store will carry the full range of Guess apparel and accessories, including the Guess Kids collection. Guess also plans to open a health food bar and restaurant in the new store, slated to make its debut during the March women’s shows. Prefer Gin Rosa’s headier cocktail? The bar hopes to move to a smaller location next door.

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