STILL MORE FIGHTIN’ WORDS: The courtroom battles may have died down, but the LVMH-Gucci war is raging runway-side between archrivals Bernard Arnault and Domenico De Sole. As reported, the two have been sparring in these columns over whose group has brands with the most potential. De Sole had asserted that Gucci, majority owned by French tycoon Francois Pinault, would be first to have two greats: Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci. Arnault retorted that he’s way ahead with four or five stars, including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Hennessy. Irked by that assertion, De Sole reminded Arnault that he has at least three problem ponies in his stable, including his failed bid in the auction business with Phillips. Informed on Monday at Louis Vuitton of De Sole’s latest charge, Arnault reflected for a moment, and then pronounced: “I don’t care what Mr. De Sole has to say. He’s only Mr. Pinault’s employee.”
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Meanwhile, Bernard Arnault had something else to boast about. Fortune magazine’s most recent issue named Christian Dior one of its “World’s Most Admired Companies.” The results are based on a survey in which companies are rated on nine attributes, including management, innovation and financial soundness. At an LVMH press conference last week, Arnault proclaimed that Dior sales were up 50 percent in January and February. Beauty giant L’Oreal topped the list of the five French companies cited for merit by Fortune.
GOLD AS ICE: In a show season marred by many teetering, tottering and toppling models, Louis Vuitton wasn’t taking any chances on Monday. During rehearsals just before the 2 p.m. show, Vuitton learned that models could not keep their footing on the slick gold-painted catwalk. The show producers kept the increasingly cranky crowd waiting outside for more than 30 minutes while it scored the runway with knives. There was one gasp-inducing moment during the show when one model slipped and pitched forward, but no one fell on the solid, if scratched, gold.
STIRRING STIRRUPS: Trust Giorgio Armani to stage a small, private fashion show for clients and then bag actress Kate Hudson for the front row. The collection, shown Sunday night at Paris’s Hotel d’Evreux to about 200 Armani clients, closed to a cascade of applause. “I thought it was beautiful,” beamed Hudson, of the 40-odd, mostly eveningwear, outfits. “I loved the collection’s beautiful, strong lines. Some [of the looks] were very retro.” Armani’s stirrup pants, which got mixed reviews in Milan, were also a talking point for clients, many of whom coyly admitted they’d prefer trousers. Hudson said she might be game. “Maybe if I had legs up to my chest,” she offered. Armani has become fashion’s most prolific host. Following a marathon of events over the last few weeks, including store openings and fashion shows, he presided over a dinner party Sunday to fete the opening of a new Collezioni store on the Avenue George V. “It’s such a pleasure to show people your universe,” explained the gregarious designer, who also sat front row at Stella McCartney Monday morning applauding her water-color chiffons and encouraging her dad, Sir Paul, and others, to do the same. Meanwhile, Hudson kept spreading her charms around Paris, popping by Market late Sunday for a party Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Glenda Bailey threw for the birthdays of staffers Mary Alice Stephenson and Jennifer Jackson. Then on Monday, she was front row at Yves Saint Laurent.
KORS FOR CONCERN?: Celine’s parent, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is downplaying rumblings in Paris that tensions are mounting at the house between the designer, Michael Kors, and Celine president Jean-Marc Loubier. Yves Carcelle, head of LVMH’s fashion and leather goods division, brushed off such suggestions Monday. “They’re working together,” he said. “Of course, they have discussions, but it’s normal.” According to sources, the two have been sparring over creative control.
BEIGE GIANT: A veteran of the New York fashion scene, New York Giant cornerback Jason Sehorn is finding Paris a little tight at the seams. At the Louis Vuitton show Monday, he complained that he couldn’t complete his total Vuitton look of beige sweater, jacket and brown shoes; he had to wear his own trousers. “That’s the problem with fashion pants,” he griped. “They’re cut too tight in the thighs. It makes you wonder if they’re cut for real men.” Sehorn, in Paris for the week with his wife, Angie Harmon, was also hunting for a good cup o’ joe. “French coffee’s like tar,” he said. “They need Starbuck’s over here.”
REVOLVING DOOR: In fashion’s game of musical chairs, the music has not yet stopped. According to sources, Nina Ricci has initiated a search for a new ready-to-wear designer. As reported, Ricci is showing its fall-winter collection in a showroom this week. Ricci designer Masimo Guissani made his runway debut last October. Meanwhile, Pucci, part of LVMH, is also said to be considering changes. The last three collections under new artistic director Julio Espada have received mixed reviews.
ALL EYES ON BRITNEY: Britney Spears has done the schoolgirl thing, she’s been the scantily dressed sex goddess, and now, the pop siren can add “accessories designer” to her resume.
The Britney Spears eyewear collection is manufactured by Glance Eyewear, the New York-based division of Sun Ban Fashions Inc. The line, which will be presented at the International Vision Expo in New York this week, includes about 20 styles, like rimless shields, metal frames with rhinestone lens embellishments and pink, gray and brown plastic frames with colored lenses in pink, violet and sky blue. Each frame features Spears’ fairy logo, and some of the plastics are even adorned with a hologram version of it.
“Britney and her management go over all the product that is designed and approve or disapprove and make changes,” said Alexander Wu, vice president of Glance. “Britney wears a lot of sunglasses; she really loves them. So the license was a good fit.” Wholesale prices range from $39.95 to $54.95, and the line targets optical retailers and department stores. Spears’ other licensed products include school supplies, notebooks, backpacks, pens, hair accessories and dolls.
NOUVELLE WAGG: After an eight-year hiatus, the legendary Paris night spot Whisky a Go-Go or WAGG is back in business at 62 Rue Mazarine, next door to Alcazar. However, nostalgic types be forewarned: The London design firm Conran has taken over, replacing the go-go girls and the spectacular decadence of the Sixties and Seventies with a prominent deejay booth and dance floor featuring house music maestros like Craig Richards and Terry Francis from London’s Fabric nightclub.