NEW YORK — More often than not, clothes at designer luncheons are much like petits fours — pretty to look at, but people seldom dig in.

Things were different Tuesday afternoon when Burberry invited some social types to its 57th Street store here for some salmon and shopping. In fact, guests appeared so enthusiastic about what was on the racks that the actual seating was delayed to give them more time to look around.

This story first appeared in the May 11, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Even public relations executive Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler found herself in the unlikely role of saleswoman. “I think I’ve sold about three of these coats,” she said, tugging on the navy one she was wearing with oversized gold buttons. “Everyone keeps asking me where I got it. I just told them, ‘It’s right over there.'”

Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Annie Churchill, Elea­nor Ylvisaker, Zani Gugelmann, Cristina Greeven Cuomo and Adelina Wong Ettelson were among the guests who searched the third floor for spring and fall 2006 finds. Ylvisaker zoned in on a tuxedo, a fine-gauge belted sweater with blouson sleeves and a coat. Sulaika Zarrouk, co-founder of the accessories label Felix Rey, toyed with the idea of buying a sample coat in camel, since it would only be produced in black. “There are very few holes in my wardrobe, and I’m trying not to buy another pair of shoes,” she said.

All the interest in samples seemed to surprise Burberry chief executive officer Rose Marie Bravo, who said she met a customer who mentioned buying three samples. “I guess it’s an opportunity to have something no one else will have,” Bravo said.

Midway through lunch, one observant guest noticed a rolling rack of fall clothes that had not been on the floor earlier. Others were too busy chatting about Burberry designer Christopher Bailey’s career path to notice it.

The shoppers were drawn to a $4,435 pearl-colored antique lace trench with jersey lining, a $2,130 wool, cashmere and silk tuxedo with silk satin shawl collar and pant, a $3,095 trench with natural fox cuffs and trim and a $1,880 trench quilted leather Manor bag.

“People have really gravitated to this collection,” Bravo said. “I’ve seen it building in the last two or three seasons. It almost seems as though every season the momentum gets stronger and stronger.”

Bravo, who will exit her post in July, is not looking back. “I’m thrilled that the company is doing so well,” she said. “I’m thrilled that Christopher [Bailey] is having such a strong reaction commercially and editorially. I’m excited about Angela [Ahrendts] being our new ceo. It’s quite nice to be standing down, as the English like to say, when I’m leaving.”