YVES’S BIG EVE: Designers are coming out in force tonight for Yves Saint Laurent’s swan-song couture extravaganza. Among those expected are Oscar de la Renta, Jean Paul Gaultier, Hubert de Givenchy, Hedi Slimane, Carolina Herrera, Vivienne Westwood, Diane Von Furstenberg, Sonia Rykiel and Alber Elbaz.

There should be plenty of front-row intrigue. A spokesman for Francois Pinault said that the French titan, whose retail empire Pinault-Printemps-Redoute controls Gucci Group and whose family firm has funded Yves Saint Laurent couture, plans to attend the show, in spite of prickly relations with YSL couture chief Pierre Berge. But don’t expect to see Tom Ford, Gucci Group’s creative director and the current designer of YSL Rive Gauche, or Domenico De Sole, Gucci Group chief executive. A spokeswoman confirmed on Monday that neither are attending.

Meanwhile, such luminaries as Lauren Bacall, Madame Jacques Chirac, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta, Bianca Jagger and Jeanne Moreau are expected to see a spectacle featuring 100 models and four decades of design.

POP ART: Is cream the new black? That’s what guests at Stella McCartney’s party last Saturday might have divined as Madonna inspected a rack of limited-edition designs by McCartney and artist Gary Hume, which were being sold to aid women in Afghanistan. “Wait, she hasn’t seen the black ones yet,” cautioned McCartney as she escorted the pop star through the throngs crowded into Thaddaeus Ropac’s gallery. “I like the idea of one-offs. I was asked to model one myself. Which one are you going to buy?”

Juggling a glass of champagne, a pack of Marlboro lights and a stack of forms for the silent auction, McCartney handed the papers out to such guests as Sheryl Crow and Bianca Jagger. The stars had popped in to pay homage to McCartney and Hume between Donatella Versace’s couture show and Versace’s after-party at La Cantine du Faubourg. Ropac said that the T-shirts and dresses, designed by McCartney and embroidered in India from sketches by Hume, arrived at the gallery the morning of the party. Call it easy-care couture. “They are signed by both artists,” Ropac said. “But they are machine washable.”

Later, Chelsea Clinton, the surprise guest at the Versace show, arrived at Donatella’s party with security fit for a head of state. But she rolled with the punches, hardly fussing when a bottle of champagne was accidentally spilled on her Versace dress. “It happens,” she said. “I’ve learned that you’ve got to just take life as it comes.” The Versace presentation, it turns out, was the first fashion show she had ever attended. “I am so happy to be here,” she said. “This is the real experience.” Actually, however, the fete was a bit surreal, with guests ranging from iconic astronaut Buzz Aldrin to Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones grooving to Boy George on the turntables.

ENOUGH ALREADY: Gwyneth Paltrow has been at nearly every show, and she hasn’t missed a party yet. What’s gotten into the starlet next door?

“I’m doing a job,” she explained Monday night at the launch of Vertu, a souped-up cell phone costing as much as $25,000 for the platinum model. “I’m covering the couture for In Style magazine. I’m supposed to be writing about the collections in my own words.”

But unlike most fly-on-the-wall writers, Paltrow has been hindered by throngs of photographers every step of the way. It’s enough to make any Spence girl occasionally forget her manners. Like Saturday night at the Versace party, when Gwyneth gave the frenzied photographers an expressive gesture known in France as the bras d’honneur. “It’s the same photographers everywhere,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Guys, you just saw me an hour ago!”‘

POLITICALLY CORRECT: Chelsea Clinton isn’t the only political personality taking in the shows this week. The U.S. Ambassador to France Howard Leach and his wife, Gretchen, sat with LVMH honcho Bernard Arnault and his wife, Helene, at the Givenchy presentation on Sunday. “She knows a little more about fashion than I do,” said Leach of his wife. He officially succeeded former ambassador Felix Rohatyn on Sept. 4.

And, at his first runway event, he certainly got an eyeful. Midway through, model Jacquetta Wheeler stepped on the hem of her dress, yanking it off her otherwise bare torso. Arnault and the ambassador leaned close to share a diplomatic word as the model regained her composure. “It was an exciting show, wasn’t it?” Leach said afterwards.

His wife showed her own fashion savvy — not to mention political instincts — when discussing the Jean Paul Gaultier collection shown earlier that day. Although she hadn’t seen it, she seemed interested to hear about the male models in kilts and briefly considered whether a man could look good in such a gender-bending outfit. “It depends on his legs,” she decided.

RED ALERT: Flame-haired heiress Francesca von Habsburg, the former-wild-child daughter of billionaire art collector Heini Thyssen, swapped party dresses for wifely dirndls when she married Archduke Karl von Habsburg in 1993. But you can’t keep a good woman down. This past weekend, Chessy was back. A notably slimmer Habsburg roared into Paris on Friday for gallery-owner Thaddaeus Ropac’s birthday party, organized by Bianca Jagger and attended by Phoebe Philo and Max Wigram, Betty and Francois Catroux, Gilbert and George, Sydney Picasso and her son Xavier and fashionista artist Sylvie Fleurie. And Habsburg isn’t using the trip to catch up on her beauty sleep. After the birthday dinner at L’Avenue, the whole gang sped across town — and seemingly through a time warp — to boogie at Maxim’s, of all places. Proprietor Pierre Cardin was downstairs to greet the VIPs and snap his fingers for free drinks. The gang stayed on until 4:00 a.m., and Picasso gave the deejay a lift home. The next night, Habsburg was at it again. After a caviar dinner with friends, Chessy hit the Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace parties and wound up at the Hotel Costes for a 3:00 a.m. nightcap with Fleurie. What did they talk about? Cell phones. Both are obsessed with playing video games on their phones.

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