BLACKOUT: Color in springtime? Who needs it? That seems to be the case in Paris, where stars attending this week’s Paris Film Festival are rediscovering the power of the little black dress. On opening night, Monica Bellucci, star of Frederic Schoendoerffer’s “Secret Agents,” showed off her curves in a sliver of silk by Christian Dior, while Elsa Zylberstein made her entrance on Karl Lagerfeld’s arm in a black satin Chanel. Charlize Theron was attending the French premier of “Monster” in another part of town, but she got the fashion memo: She went for a sleek a black Dior number, topped with a black leather jacket. The festival closes Tuesday.
WEK THIS WAY: For boosters of Los Angeles Fashion Week, the sight Tuesday night of a bona fide supermodel on a runway served as another sign of validation for the fledgling showcase. And the packed house showed its appreciation, loudly, when out walked Alek Wek, along with five other models flown in from New York for the Custo Barcelona presentation at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios. An L.A.-runway first for the quirky Spanish brand, which introduced the collection in New York, the show sent photographers into a flashing frenzy by attracting the week’s first substantial batch of celebs — Taryn Manning, Jack Osbourne, Djimon Hounsou, Amy Smart and Nicky Hilton. “I used to do the little downtown shows here years ago, and I can’t believe how far they’ve come,” gushed model-turned-actress Jennifer Gimenez. But designer Custo Dalmau, who hits town every couple of months, has more on his mind than advancing the runway cause: He’s set to decide on one of three locations under consideration for the brand’s first Los Angeles door. “If we are lucky, we will open a store here by September,” promises Dalmau.
EXTRA, VALEXTRA: With Customs agents cracking down on exotic skin imports into the U.S., more than a handful of fashion companies have been coming up with creative means of transporting samples into the U.S. A lot of talk at a dinner party at Da Silvano in New York on Tuesday night, hosted by Massimo Suppancig, chief executive officer of Valextra, centered on just how the company managed to bring its $20,000 pink crocodile bag to Bergdorf Goodman for a 10-day sales event. It turns out a staff member carried the bag on the plane as if it were her personal bag, only to face an unexpected adventure of avoiding spilled red wine and coffee stains during the duration of the flight. Valextra sold 30 of its luxury handbags during the 10-day event, making it worth the effort.
Another endangered species — the smoker — had less luck at the event. As guests like Milly de Cabrol, Anne McNally, Nicoletta Santoro, Gigi Mortimer, Marisa Noel Brown and Fabien Basabe looked on, Rena Sindi and Ann Jones repeatedly defied New York’s smoking ban, lighting up several times only to have their cigarettes ripped from their hands by the restaurant staff.
PAN HANDLERS: With National Tartan Week, Scotland’s annual marketing promotion, under way, there was bound to be another round of placing men in uncomfortable situations for the sake of publicity, and Monday night was a case in point when Rufus Albemarle, Mipam Thurman, Tim Schifter, Charles Askegaard and several other New Yorkers took part in a “Man with a Pan” cooking class sponsored by Dewar’s at Marquee.
“I get to wear my kilt,” said Eric Villency, who was assigned to a team working on appetizers under the direction of Aquavit’s Marcus Samuelsson.
“This time, he’s wearing the skirt and I’m wearing the pants,” pointed out his companion, Olivia Chantecaille.
The results of the assorted chefs were somewhat questionable, with few takers for a dessert prepared by Askegaard and Andrew Bolton, associate curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose main responsibility was chopping bananas. Vivienne Tam, Yeohlee and Anna Sui had turned out to cheer him on, but once the dish was completed with a heavy dose of chocolate pudding — which one guest described as “looking like horse manure” — most of them headed for dinner at a restaurant down the street.
THE BRIT IS COMING? Perched front and center at the Lloyd Klein show, fuchsia-coiffed designer Zandra Rhodes hinted that she might show in Los Angeles next season: “I’ll see what happens. California is such a strategic position and I’ve been getting more and more interest in my clothes. They’re very light and floaty, ideal for this area, anyway!” At least one thing is certain: Rhodes’ past work is a hot commodity on the local vintage market. “If I hadn’t saved my clothes when I first started, I certainly couldn’t afford to buy them back!” she laughed.