BEVERLY HILLS — The Oscars rush got an early start when Escada designer Brian Rennie arrived in town with 56 award-ready gowns a full week before Tuesday’s nomination announcements.

“We don’t like how it’s turned into a circus the week or two before the show where everyone is fighting for a star,” Rennie said from the expansive Governor’s Suite at L’Ermitage Hotel here, where every few minutes, a model swept through the living room in another change of crystal and tulle.

“We’d rather come here earlier and develop the relationships. I much prefer when [celebrities and stylists] come in and we can discuss a different color or other changes. I find stylists like to add a little more of their own ideas. They want their client to have the ‘only one’ dress.”

Although Rennie and his team were mum about who popped in, he did let it slip that he was having dinner with Angela Basset one evening, and that Garcelle Beauvais is among his “new favorite muses.” Then turning to his publicist, he asked sheepishly: “Can I say that?”

What he would admit, however, is that past lessons motivated the well-in-advance stop. Last year was a nail-biter when the heavily beaded Mandarin number for “Crouching Tiger’s” Zhang Ziyi barely arrived in time. Then there was the big Oscar moment with Kim Basinger — not when she won the gold for “L.A. Confidential,” mind you, but during the limo ride when a seamstress busily completed the finishing touches.

Any kind of last-minute pressure is really unnecessary, Rennie pointed out, considering Escada’s fall 2002 collection was already completed in November 2001. In fact, he was so concerned it might be too black for the red carpet-bound that, in the two weeks before he arrived, he whipped up another six — in shocking lemon, turquoise and a metal mix of pewter, gold and silver.

“Those are for spring 2003. Now that’s really early,” he said. He’s also evidently picked up a thing or two from previous visits: He considers the way the sunlight on the red carpet and the spotlights inside will affect a dress, or how it will move as a star walks to the stage.

As for the black offerings, they are anything but somber. Rennie designed the entrance-making decolletages and exit-ready exposed backs with Hollywood’s hard-body starlets in mind. “They like to show a bit of flesh here, don’t they?” he mused. To that end, there’s a crystal-covered nude sheath that gives birthday suit a new meaning. Rennie imagined a certain rebellious, curvaceous Oscar winner wearing the perfect princess pouf gown — this one, though, in black tulle with skinny strips of black leather running down the strapless bodices and white crystals resembling stars in twilight. “She’d have to wear a biker’s jacket with it.”

Although he’s playing to win, Rennie admitted that even he is “amazed” at the celebrity who already scheduled a fitting during his visit. “How do they already know more than a month away what they want? How do they know a week before the shows start in New York, then Paris and Milan?” Not that he’s complaining.