A VIEW TO A THRILL
THE WEEK BEFORE THE OSCARS, THE BUZZ WAS REACHING RECORD LEVELS.

CLOTHES ENCOUNTERS, 2001: Is there a stylist backlash? Tom Ford added fuel to the fire with a slam of stylists in a Los Angeles Times article two weeks ago, but the scarcity of nominees booking stylists (only Marcia Gay Harden and Joan Allen) raised well-plucked eyebrows. The cause? Likely money. Many of the nominees starred in smaller films from releasing companies that can’t afford a stylist’s hefty price tag. Still, it didn’t stop some actresses who were only attending parties from pulling dresses from everyone. Kim Cattrall and Lara Flynn Boyle used both Rachel Zoe Rosensweig and George Blodwell. Needless to say, designers were confused. So were the stylists.

FORD MOTORS: Tom Ford sneaked into the Beverly Hills Hotel early last week to do private fittings for a few favored clients. He reportedly didn’t go to parties and wasn’t looking for new business. He did attend Jeff Koons’ opening at the Gagosian Gallery and the post-dinner at Mr. Chow’s Thursday night.

SOLE MATES: Donatella Versace may be in the shoe business herself, but she turned to Jimmy Choo in her moment of need, asking designers Tamara Mellon and Sandra Choi for custom-dyed, nude suede strappy sandals the Wednesday before Sunday’s Vanity Fair fete.

YO, YEOH: First it was Vivienne Tam. Then maybe Vera Wang. But in the end, Michelle Yeoh, one of the stars of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” opted for a young designer from her native Hong Kong. Barney Cheng made the actress a hand-beaded cheongsam with a tiger-striped embroidered bodice and a hem resembling the scales of a flying dragon. Cheng’s team spent 160 hours sewing on 180,000 Swarovski crystals. The delighted designer said Yeoh decided three weeks ago to wear him — an eternity compared to the last-minute decisions made by some divas.

LIP SERVICE: Not to be left off the burgeoning beauty bandwagon, Estee Lauder created a special lipstick for DreamWorks’ Oscar nominees Joan Allen (“The Contender”), Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand (“Almost Famous”). The new Go Pout lipstick in “Dream” won’t hit stores until mid-April.

WHEN HARRY MET SAMA: The hot red-carpet accessory this year? Possibly Harry Winston’s limited-edition sunglasses, made by SAMA Eyewear, with “HW” crystals in the lower right corner.

VANITY FARE: Vanity Fair’s post- Oscar party at Morton’s always ruled the roost in terms of apres bashes, but this year, an invite was even more coveted because the number of studio post-parties shrank dramatically due to cutbacks (most studios hosted intimate affairs on Saturday). This year, Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son and deejay Fatboy Slim entertained Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn, Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze. The most popular menu items: the cookies decorated with Julia Roberts’s and Benicio Del Toro’s mugs.

HOTEL HOTBED: L’Ermitage lived up to its nickname this year: Oscar-Mart. Prada, Thierry Mugler, Daniel Swarovski, Judith Leiber, Stuart Weitzman, Roberto Cavalli, Pamela Dennis, J. Mendel, H. Stern, and Craig Natiello of Halston all set up shop.
But L’Ermitage may be losing its monopoly. Reps for Missoni showed at Chateau Marmont, James Purcell saw clients at The Standard and Christina Perrin stationed herself at the Mondrian.
As far as where others actually slept, Chanel’s reps stayed at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, Mark Badgley and James Mischka chose to bunk at The Avalon and some Tod’s executives took up at the new Luxe hotel on Rodeo Drive, conveniently located between Valentino’s soon-to-be-open women’s and men’s boutiques and within striking distance from Tod’s new boutique.