HAPPY VAL: Valentino is happy as a lark about his new owner, Marzotto. The designer, seen in Paris over the weekend at an antiques fair in the Tuileries Garden, said it was business-as-usual at his house despite the sale of the company. “Nothing’s changing,” Valentino said. “I am still doing the couture and the ready-to-wear.” He’s so certain of the future that he’s preparing to move into a new house in London next year. The house in Holland Park is much bigger than Valentino’s existing London pied a terre. The designer said he needs the extra room for his staff.

BOW WOW WOW: La Samaritaine is going to the dogs. Well, not exactly. The LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned department store will next week inaugurate a luxury in-store pet shop, part of a push to revamp the landmark store on Rue de Rivoli. It will cater to Parisians who want to pamper their pooches, stocking fancy collars, beds, the high-end dog food Cesar and Sheba and other pet paraphernalia. LVMH acquired La Samaritaine, founded in 1870, in November 2000 and has been grooming it ever since.

ELLE INVADES AFGHANISTAN: Osama Bin Laden is still at large, but at least Afghanistan has been made safe for popular women’s magazines. At least Elle thinks so. The Hachette-owned title is funding “Roz” (meaning “The Day”), the first post-Taliban Afghan women’s magazine. The startup will touch on fashion, law, society, cooking and other topics. “Afghan women have always been interested in fashion and clothing,” said Lailoma Ahmadi, the magazine’s Afghan editor in chief, in a press statement. “Our aim in launching this magazine is to help educate women and teach them how to help each other.” Although Hachette U.S. could not corroborate any details of the venture, the Associated Press reported that Hachette has laid out $6,500 in startup costs and expects to pay $5,000 in putting out each issue.
The magazine’s primary mission is to help women reclaim some of the cultural ground lost during the five-year repressive reign of the Taliban. The magazine’s first cover, for instance, is a color headshot of a young Afghan woman wearing a headscarf. But Roz’s ultimate agenda does have feminist overtones. “I would tell these people that it is written in the Holy Koran that both men and women should have equal rights,” one Roz staffer told the press, “and denying women these rights is against the teachings of Islam.” That should play well in Kabul. If Roz takes off, expect to see other women’s magazines staking out the rugged terrain of Near East publishing. Perhaps a Pakistani edition of Jane?

ANALYZING OSCARS: As if designers didn’t have enough pressure about dressing the stars at Oscar time, now even Wall Street is watching. Bear Stearns luxury goods analyst Dana Telsey on Tuesday issued her own “Oscar Fashion Survey,” which provides more analysis about who wore what than even In Style. Not only does Telsey provide a list of what designers the major female and male stars wore, she also details the color of their dresses, whether they were strapless or not, their jewelry, whether actors wore bow or long ties and single- or double-breasted suits. She then ranks the most popular designers, beginning with Giorgio Armani dressing five stars, Valentino and Versace, two each, and pretty much everyone else dressing one star. As for the most popular color — it was black, which was worn by 13 actresses, Telsey said.

LIFE IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The search is on for four men and women willing to spend their days in the windows of Harrods, playing in a faux house filled with electronic gadgets. Harrods and LG Electronics, a digital appliance manufacturer, are looking for two adults and two teenagers to simulate a family living in four rooms equipped with such goodies as a microwave that downloads recipes and a refrigerator linked to the Internet. The lucky four will live in the windows for six days at the end of May and their every move will be filmed by eight Web cameras. “It’s not necessary for them to be electrically minded, but they do have to be gregarious and confident and, of course, they need to look good,” said a Harrods spokeswoman. She added that the “family members” would also wear different outfits each day from the Knightsbridge store. Alas, Harrods new tenants will only be living in the windows during store hours. At night, it’s back to a low tech hotel room.

MONSTER MASH: “Party Monster,” the forthcoming film about New York’s Limelight nightclub, the Club Kid phenomenon of the Nineties, and impresario/homicidal maniac Michael Alig, already boasts a dream — rather, nightmare — cast that includes Macaulay Culkin as Alig. WWD has learned that glam/goth rocker Marilyn Manson has just been cast in the film as well. Manson will play Alig’s “Superstar” Christina, the first to be discovered by Alig in the underground clubs of New York City. Fashionista/Imitation of Christ affiliate Chloe Sevigny will also be appearing in “Party Monster” as Gitsie, a wannabe Club Kid from Florida. “Party Monster” starts shooting this May.

WILLIAMSON’S BUTTERFLIES: The U.K. department store group Debenhams has just added Matthew Williamson to its portfolio of designers. Beginning this fall, Williamson will design an apparel collection called “Butterfly by Matthew Williamson” to be distributed in 50 Debenhams stores. The line will be part of the Designers at Debenhams range, which has featured British designers such as Jasper Conran, Philip Treacy, Ben de Lisi and Elspeth Gibson. Prices will start at about $38. Meanwhile, another British retailer, Marks & Spencer, plans to spend $60 million refurbishing 100 stores between April and November in the second of a three-step re-structuring plan. Marks & Spencer will set up 30 new in-store cafes and “creating a brighter, more modern environment,” for the stores, according to a spokeswoman.

FOOL’S DAY REDUX: Clearly not everyone celebrates April Fool’s Day. The Health section of the New York Post on Tuesday reported as fact WWD’s April Fool’s Day joke “Fashion Scoop” that super-slim Karl Lagerfeld plans to launch a line of low-calorie foods. Faye Penn, the paper’s features editor, took full responsibility for the error, adding: “If Mr. Lagerfeld wasn’t considering launching a line of diet cuisine before, he should now.” Maybe next April 1.

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