BIDING HIS TIME: Azzedine Alaia, famous for his snail’s-pace approach to the harried fashion business, never wears a watch. Which is why it’s a surprise to see his name appear in an advertising campaign in Europe for Blancpain, one of Swatch’s upscale brands. The ad quotes Alaia saying: “Tonight, time does not exist for me.” Alaia said he met officials from Blancpain by chance at a restaurant in Milan, who asked him for some bon mots. He obliged, since he admires their designs. Alaia said he wasn’t paid, but was promised one of their chronographs in exchange. What will he do with it, considering he’s not exactly fond of being prompt? “I’m not sure,” he said. “I’ll see when I get it.” Meanwhile, asked if he has finally fixed a time during couture week in Paris to show his next collection, Alaia had to laugh. “How about I tell you next week?” he offered.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY: Unionists and others charging Gucci’s parent company, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, with paying sweatshop wages in Asia for its catalog arm might consider a crash course in Fashion 101. Last week, protesters in front of the Gucci boutique on Sloane Street in London wore masks that made them resemble Stella McCartney and Tom Ford, whom they described as the “two top designers” of the Gucci brand. Oops. Of course, Ford is the creative director of Gucci, while McCartney has her own collection under the Gucci Group umbrella. In any case, PPR maintains that its suppliers must comply with its code of conduct and local labor regulations. The protests in Europe are viewed as pressure tactics by UNITE, which is seeking to unionize PPR’s Brylane facility in Indianapolis.

RSVP: The party for fashion and celebrity photographer Rankin on Wednesday at Engine Company 31 is sure to be a fashion-packed affair. But the guests generating the most buzz are the Osbournes, slated to make an appearance at the photographer’s first-ever U.S. exhibition. So the hue of the evening will be blue, to match Ozzy’s oaths.

TOUR DE FORCE: She wore Dolce & Gabbana for “The Mary Tour” two years ago and helped boost Catherine Malandrino’s profile by sporting her clothes last year. But when Mary J. Blige returns to the stage this summer, she’ll be wearing Plein Sud. According to a spokeswoman for the label, Blige met designer Faycal Amor in London in April at its store opening party and became an instant disciple of the label. Amor designed her ensemble for the VH1 Divas Las Vegas concert last month and now also has designed the wardrobe for Blige’s latest tour, kicking off in Los Angeles on Sunday.

HUGHES CLOTHES-MINDED: Figure-skater Sarah Hughes, the golden girl of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, is warming up to Seventh Avenue. She declared her “love” for fashion Thursday night at a party celebrating the 25 most influential names in figure skating. Clutching a Christian Dior handbag and dressed in a Max Mara skirt and a Juicy Couture tank, Hughes said designers have approached her, but Giorgio Armani is the only one who has sent her some clothes.

“But if I don’t wear them, I don’t get to keep them,” the 17-year-old said.

Hughes, already a General Electric spokeswoman, recently added Campbell Soup to her endorsement portfolio, but hasn’t signed any deals with apparel companies.

Kristi Yamaguchi upstaged Hughes at the event at Loews 34th Street Cineplex, by being named “the most influential person in figure skating,” but Yamaguchi missed the event. She was cheering on her husband, Carolina Panther hockey player Brett Hedican, in the Stanley Cup finals.

MAY DAY: May Co. is getting serious about fashion, particularly that of its own making. For the first time, the St. Louis-based department store operator on Thursday will stage a fall preview fashion show of its private label fashions, developed by the in-house design team. None other than May Co. chief executive officer Gene Kahn, a merchant at heart, will host the event, set for Cipriani on 42nd Street. As far as fashion, May Co. has always been in the mainstream, but now executives are promising styles that are distinctive.

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