“I’m too busy to think about Paris right now,” said Oscar de la Renta on Monday, responding to word around town that the Concorde Couturier has cemented his retirement date from his duties at Balmain, and that the July show could be it. “I’ll think about Paris when I get there.”
While the designer informed the house of Balmain of his intentions to leave following serious back surgery last year, he hasn’t said just when he plans to go. But 2002 marks his 10th anniversary with the house. But who would fill his shoes? Laurent Mercier, who had de la Renta’s seal of approval in the ready-to-wear department, didn’t exactly stun the ladies with his debut collection in March, so there’s some concern that Balmain’s couture could go the way of YSL or be subject to the same kind of “strategic review” taking place over at Louis Feraud.

WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: The invitation to the May 13 press preview of “Adrian: American Glamour” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute shows Joan Crawford in the 1932 film “Letty Lynton,” one of more than 200 films credited to the legendary Hollywood designer. But don’t get the wrong idea. This exhibition, organized by guest curator Jane Trapnell Marino, focuses on the lesser-known fashion career of Adrian — that Crawford dress was widely copied and is said to have sold more than 500,000 knockoffs at Macy’s alone.
“For the most part, the general public is only aware of Adrian as a movie credit,” said Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute. “Instead, what we’re focusing on is his equally imaginative fashion.”
While his designs like those for Crawford, and Katharine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story,” have remained in the public eye since those movies endure as classics, much of his own fashion, designed during the Great Depression and through World War II, has largely disappeared. Fortunately, Koda and Marino found an avid collector in, of all people, Azzedine Alaia, who holds one of the largest Adrian collections in the world. “Azzedine has an interest in designers who are not only original in their overall aesthetic, but who are also interested in technical innovation,” Koda said. “The other designers he collects passionately are Madeleine Vionnet and Balenciaga. That makes sense for someone who’s interested in the complexities of cut.”
Upon closer inspection, Koda expects that visitors to the show will walk away with a better understanding of the innovative and intricate piecing techniques behind some of Adrian’s seemingly simple silhouettes. That, and a little inspiration from the kind of creativity that was going on even during a time of extreme adversity.
“This shows that originality is irrepressible,” Koda said.

THE IPO SEAS: It looks like Prada Group’s chief, Patrizio Bertelli, will spend his summer sailing — not his deluxe boat, but the luxury goods house through the financial waters of an initial pubic offering.
Buzz in Milan has intensified that Prada will go public, maybe as soon as July, and according to industry sources, it’s the three banks coordinating the operation — Deutsche Bank AG, Intesa Bci and Bnp Parisbas — that are pushing the deal, citing a favorable moment for the stock markets and the fact that Prada’s sales quickly picked up again, especially in the U.S. and Japan, after a critical fall for luxury goods in general.
That said, a source close to one bank said that normally, the banks want to accelerate an IPO if the company isn’t performing well and that’s not Prada’s case. “Conversely, Prada’ s business quickly picked up again and the final decision for an IPO is solely in the family’s hands and depends on goals and economic conditions,” said the source.
A Prada spokeswoman also reiterated the fact that following the bond issued last December, Prada has 3 1/2 years to go public and it will do so in “the most favorable economic conditions.” The $624.1 million bond is a means by which Prada can restructure its debt load of $1.16 billion.

J.CLONE: When 17-year-old Natalie Martinez was chosen by Jennifer Lopez to be the “J.Lo girl,” Martinez couldn’t believe it. “There were so many beautiful girls there, but I believed that what was meant to happen, would happen,” said the high school junior from Miami. “My friends kept telling me I would win. I told them not to be so sure.” Her friends were right. Martinez was chosen to be one of five finalists in the J.Lo Model Search out of 4,000 girls in five cities. The five appeared at Macy’s Herald Square on Saturday, where Lopez announced the winner. On Friday, Lopez hung out with the finalists and helped each of them pick a number from the J.Lo collection to wear the next day. “She has such great style,” said Martinez. “She would add an accessory to an outfit that would really finish it off and make it hot and sexy.” Martinez said she has been a fan of the J.Lo collection since its launch, but finds it hard for her to get her size — 3 or 4 — in the store. “I think that the buyers at Burdine’s in Miami don’t buy enough sizes or something. I told Jennifer that they never have what I want in my size,” she said. After Martinez finishes school for the year, she will gear up for a photo shoot which will feature her in an ad for J.Lo. The ad will appear in an upcoming issue of YM. In a last-minute decision, Lopez also decided to include the other four girls in a group of regional co-op ads.

FLOWER POWER: It wasn’t conceived as a political event. But an opening at the Sentou gallery in Paris tonight has become a gesture against the intolerance represented by controversial extreme-right French presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. The gallery commissioned designers Gilles Dufour, Olympia Le Tan and Dominique Modiano, wife of Goncourt-prize winning author Patrick Modiano, to do jewelry inspired by a lily of the valley, the flower distributed among friends on May Day here. Dufour, who did a lapel badge, said the flower also represents solidarity among the workers who traditionally march in May Day celebrations. “The jewelry has become our own protest against Le Pen and racism,” he said. “It’s a flower to be distributed among all races.” In campaign speeches, Le Pen has alluded to deporting illegal immigrants out on special trains, sending a frisson of horror around the world. The French go to the polls May 5. Incumbent Jacques Chirac is expected to win in a landslide.

Seeing Red: Who would have thought that Hugo Boss’s new ceo, Bruno Salzer, is a party animal? But parties, especially on the international level, are an important aspect of brand management, Salzer said. And thus “part of my difficult job is to be on the party circuit.”
That meant Hong Kong in November, London in April and then Berlin on April 26 for a major Hugo bash at the New National Gallery. Mies van der Rohe’s celebrated museum building went red from top to bottom. Huge banners announcing Hugo’s tenancy for the night fluttered in the wind, the walls were rouged red, and red candles lit the way up the front stairs ’til the rain doused them. Small wonder, then, that the top man in Berlin’s red-red (SPD/PDS) ruling coalition, the city’s very hip mayor, Klaus Wowereit, felt right at home and “stayed for hours. He knew a lot of people. He’s very well connected,” Salzer said.
Wowereit joined about a thousand Hugo fans, visiting Boss executives, such as U.S. chief Marty Staff, who were in town for a top level Boss subsidiary conference, and the Sascha Walz dance troupe, which performed and then clubbed with the guests after a typically offbeat Hugo show of men’s and women’s fashions for spring 2003.
Red is Hugo’s signature color, and while some joked that events on this scale could easily push Boss into the loss zone, this younger, upstart division is doing its bit to keep Boss firmly in the black. Hugo sales grew 48 percent in 2001 — and in a difficult retail environment, Salzer pointed out. Boss may be based in Swabia, a region of Germany whose inhabitants are said to be more thrifty than the Scots, but the company has a huge party budget, he acknowledged. Madrid is next up on the Boss party slate, with a celebration scheduled for early June to inaugurate the new Boss shop that opened there Monday.

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