HERMES’S WILL FOR JIL?: Speculation that designer Jil Sander might be headed to Hermes is again reaching fever pitch. But the French house continues to say it’s standing by its man, Martin Margiela, who has designed women’s ready-to-wear at Hermes since 1997. Deluged by questions about Sander at the Hermes show Sunday, a spokeswoman referred WWD to a quote from company chairman Jean-Louis Dumas in its own columns last month. Speaking about Margiela, he said, “It has been a joy for me to see how deeply he has understood our identity since the first collection.” Hermes also says the numbers speak for themselves: Sales of its women’s ready-to-wear jumped 35 percent last year.
Sander, who had an acrimonious falling-out with Prada Group last year after selling a majority stake in her company, still has a non-compete clause in effect preventing her from getting back into the fashion game. And whether she would be willing to work for another closely-held operation is another question, too.
Still that hasn’t stopped the fashion pack from fantasizing about seeing Sander hook up with the luxury maker. “Imagine,” quipped one retailer. “The line for her clothing would be as long as the line for the Birkin bag.”

RAH RAH RASPUTIN: The Davy Crockett fur hats seen in New York and Milan have morphed into cossack styles in Paris. And even Marc Jacobs and his business partner Robert Duffy have tried them on for size. At the Vuitton design studios, touched-up photos of the two in the hats adorn the inspiration wall, with Jacobs anointed “Lover of the Russian Queen” and Duffy the “Merchant Prince.” Expect to see a few tall furry numbers at the Louis Vuitton show on Tuesday.

A PARIS FURST: Diane Von Furstenberg has not yet opened her flagship store in Greenwich Village, but she’s already scouting for a location in the City of Light. She won’t say which arrondissements she’s scouring, however. “I don’t want to jinx it,” she says. “But it definitely won’t be Avenue Montaigne.”

HERVE REDUX: Two years after losing the rights to his name when Max Azria ousted him from his own house, designer Herve L. Leroux — formerly Herve Leger — is back in the wholesale game. “It’s the new me,” he says. Leroux, who opened a shop on the Left Bank’s Rue Jacob last year, said his 30-piece collection for fall will focus on evening clothes. He will start showing it to buyers and editors on Wednesday.

EYE ON THE PRIZE: The annual fashion festival in the Riveria town of Hyeres, whose past laureates include Viktor & Rolf and Alexandre Matthieu, is getting a new sponsor at its next edition in May. Henri Bendel will bestow a new prize on one of the competing designers, bankroll production and buy the collection for its young designer area. Bendel has expanded its offering of young designers over the past few years, adding such names as Luella Bartley, Emma Cook, Rick Owens, Imitation of Christ and Bernhard Willhelm. Ed Burstell, Bendel’s vice president and general manager, will sit on the jury along with designers Christophe Lemaire, Suzanne Clements, Inacio Ribeiro and Willhelm. Meanwhile, Burstell said Bendel’s was also in the final stages of negotiation with London’s Central St. Martin’s fashion school to begin a similar promotion program.