Benjamin Cho’s invitation.

<STRONG>NO SHOWS: Lawrence Stroll</STRONG> and <STRONG>Silas Chou</STRONG>, the new owners of Michael Kors LLC, were nowhere to be found Wednesday morning at the designer’s fall fashion show. “Lawrence has the flu,” said <STRONG>John...

NO SHOWS: Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou, the new owners of Michael Kors LLC, were nowhere to be found Wednesday morning at the designer’s fall fashion show. “Lawrence has the flu,” said John Idol, chief executive officer of Michael Kors, who added he’s recuperating in Canada. “And Silas is in Hong Kong celebrating the Chinese New Year.”

Rumors have been rife that Stroll and Chou haven’t been spending much time in the U.S. to avoid being subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, which has been investigating the commission practices of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., their former stomping ground. But sources said Stroll was recently in Florida, and the two men have been spending a lot of time in London working at Asprey, their other big investment.

And despite their absence from the show, Idol said all the Kors partners — Stroll, Chou, Kors and himself — are involved in running the designer’s business. “We’ll do well over $100 million [in wholesale volume] this year,” said Idol, up substantially from a year ago. He admitted there were problems with the men’s Michael Michael Kors collection, but believes the women’s and accessories Michael Michael Kors businesses are doing well, as is the collection. “We have to fix our men’s business,” he said.

SIMON SAYS: Editors and retailers may have been up in arms over Marc Jacobs’ voluminous hoop skirts Monday night, but Simon Doonan was not one of them. “I would wear those dresses if I were a chick,” the Barneys creative director said Tuesday night at the Narciso Rodriguez show. “I think they would look great on someone like Anne Slater, where the legs are great so you have this big puffy skirt and smock top and then fabulous legs at the bottom.”

But what’s done is done. These days, Doonan is looking 10 months ahead to this year’s holiday windows. “I’m feeling regal,” he said. “I think this is the year [Princes] Harry and William go to that weird, loony icon level. They’re both men now, and likely to make some big public errors. And, you know, is Charles going to marry Camilla [Parker Bowles]? And Sofia [Coppola] is doing that Marie Antionette movie. I think royalty is in the air. But having said that, now other stores better not steal my idea!”

This story first appeared in the February 10, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

LIZA ON TINSELTOWN: If you ask Liza Minnelli who is driving the fashion bus — actresses or models — it’s too close to call. “They’re coming closer and closer together,” she said.

“When you look at Oscar night, it’s really the most glorious fashion show.”

Before her friend Marc Bouwer’s show Wednesday at Cipriani 23rd Street, she noted how Hollywood dictated fashion to Americans in the Thirties and Forties, with moviegoers routinely copying actress’ favorite styles and hairstyles. Now Minnelli, who is an Academy Award, three-time Tony and Emmy winner, thinks things have headed back that way. “People watch the Oscars, Emmys and other award shows. They see what the stars are wearing and they want to look like the stars,” said Minnelli, wearing an off-white Marc Bouwer dress and knee-length boots.

Whether designers and stylists are leading that charge or the actresses have gotten smart to the benefits of being more fashion-minded is too close to call, Minnelli said. “It’s a mixture of both,” she said, adding everything comes full circle.

SUPPER CLUB: Milan streets are crammed with sexy fashion ads, but the current campaign by Marithé and François Girbaud went too far. City officials banned their billboards, which depict fashion models emulating the Last Supper, after a watchdog organization warned it was potentially offensive. But a Girbaud spokeswoman said the ads have encountered no such resistance and were well-received in Germany, France and Belgium.

PICTURE PERFECT: When Johnny Depp was at Pin-Up Studios in Paris and got wind of the fact that Naomi Campbell was shooting P. Zero’s spring ad campaign next door, he paid her a visit. Patrick Demarchelier photographed the supermodel, who also appears in Pirelli’s calendar. Campbell will visit the tents this morning to help John Demsey present Melania Trump with the MAC Star of the Week award. Demarchelier will be toasted Thursday night at a Pirelli party at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in Chelsea.

ULTRA SUEDE: Suzanne Boyd must be unaware of the old adage warning a hostess against wearing fancier attire than her guests. The flamboyant editor in chief of Suede arrived at the magazine’s “Ultimate Fab 40” party last week dressed in a floor length silver-and-black lace Rochas gown, while most of the other attendees — including Missy Elliott, Tyra Banks, Hank Azaria, Mos Def and Nas — were dressed far more casually. Banks, for instance, had on a black sweater and jeans, while Elliott wore a plain white T-shirt, a pink raincoat and a derby cap.

Boyd, who is six foot tall and change with her hair and high heels, spent the early part of the night holding court on an elevated platform at one end of the room, receiving only those guests who were willing to traipse up the riser steps to say hello. It wasn’t the first time the Suede editor has acted as grand as the divas her magazine covers. Boyd was spotted at a photo shoot last August accompanied by her own security detail.

BREAKFAST CLUB: The late Eleanor Lambert made it a tradition to welcome the regional press in her apartment for a breakfast during the fashion shows, and now, the Council of Fashion Designers is continuing her legacy. On Wednesday, the CFDA hosted 35 journalists from outside New York in a triplex penthouse at 80 West 40th Street overlooking the tents in Bryant Park. “That way, the regional press can get a true overview of fashion week,” quipped Stan Herman, president of the CFDA.

VOLLBRACHT NOTES: Bill Blass designer Michael Vollbracht made an intriguing point in the notes for his Tuesday show. He devoted a page to Geoffrey Beene and Johnny Carson, who both passed away recently. Vollbracht apprenticed with Beene 35 years ago, but the Carson connection threw a few in the audience for a loop.

The two met twice, Vollbracht wrote — once when they ended up next to each other at a urinal in a restaurant and the other time at Carson’s favorite Los Angeles haunt, Chasens. But there was more to the two than met the eye. Carson actually bought Vollbracht’s fashion business in the early Eighties for his third wife, Joanna. “She became a partner and was going to show me the ropes, but I knew the ropes already,” Vollbracht recalled. “Then came the divorce, which settled everything and closed the couture business. I thought I’d reinvent myself and moved to Safety Harbor, Fla.”

Vollbracht would only say of his encounters with Carson, “It was short but not sweet, and I don’t want to speak ill of the dead. This man was beloved by the country. I made a big mistake of not researching his marriage.”

STYLIN’ WITH LIL’ KIM: Don’t count out Lil’ Kim. The rapper said Wednesday she is still going forward with a clothing line and things are going great, even though plans to launch at this month’s WWDMAGIC show were nixed.

After Carlos Miele’s show, she said, “Hopefully, we’ll have it ready to show by back-to-school. It’s going to be a mixture of things — but very high-end, very Lil’ Kim,” but declined to elaborate. As for what “very Lil’ Kim” style boils downs to, she explained, “Hollyhood” — which happens to be the name of her line.

“All people want to think of is pasties. They will have to wait to see,” Lil’ Kim said.

In the meantime, look for her at Jennifer Lopez’s show and possibly at Zac Posen’s.

PASSION OF THE CHO: Some show invitations can leap out of the mailbox. For example, Benjamin Cho’s features a photo of two hands with bandaged, stigmata wounds, taken from a 1981 album cover of the British avant garde band Ludus. “I usually refrain from direct imagery,” Cho said. “But my show has a bit more of a narrative because I’ve been working on a lot of film stuff that goes perfectly with this picture.” While he acknowledged the show, to be held today at ABC Carpet & Home, has religious overtones, guests shouldn’t expect the spectacle of provocation to which the invite alludes. In fact, Cho seemed shocked by the vocal response to his image choice: “Not a single piece of me thought [the photo] was that provocative,” he claimed. “I thought it looked very elegant and beautiful. The hands are in this very heart-like shape, so there’s something very tender and sweet about it, which is sort of how the show is.”

MAC GETS TRUMPED: The beauty business is all in the family for Donald Trump. At the MAC media lounge in the main tent of Bryant Park on Wednesday, the mogul, reality TV star and face behind a hit fragrance from the Estée Lauder Cos. looked on while his newly minted wife, Melania, received the MAC Cosmetics “Star of the Week” award from company president John Demsey. Dressed in a light blue Luisa Beccaria blazer and jeans, the ever-gracious newlywed accepted a one-of-a-kind white leather cosmetics case filled with — what else — her favorite MAC products (Melania has been wearing Spice Lip Pencil, she said, “since my high school years.”) Clearly smitten with the current Vogue (which, like WWD, is owned by Advance Publications Inc.) cover girl, Demsey said, “Melania is the star of the moment — she not only has beauty, but she’s an intelligent woman in her own right. In MAC’s eyes, she’s a beauty icon.” After a frenzied photo op, Melania Trump hinted that her own fragrance could be on the horizon, most likely a “feminine” scent, of course. “Maybe in the future,” she said, turning to her husband. “But the best fragrance is Donald Trump — it smells amazing.” Absent from the celebration was last year’s recipient, Naomi Campbell, who was scheduled to pass on the torch in person; Campbell was reportedly held up in Brazil due to a flight delay.

STAR FRONT: The Naeem Khan show — his first — on Friday morning will bring out a few faces we haven’t quite seen enough of this week: Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen’s wife; Broadway star Donna Murphy; Lauren and Sharon Bush, and Princess Yasmin Aga Khan (who’s no relation to the designer). Houston socialite Becca Cason Thrash is flying in on Friday to also hit Khan’s show, as well as Chado Ralph Rucci.

LAUGH TRACK: Few people know that financial whiz Serge Weinberg, who exits as PPR’s chief executive officer next month to set up a private equity fund, has a great sense of humor. But his 24-year-old son, Thierry, is gaining renown in France for being a laugh a minute. The budding comedian already has a regular spot on network television, a show called “Le Grand Zapping de l’Humour,” which roughly translates to “Trolling for Gags.”

YOU WON’T FIND IT HERE: Now, Goldman Sachs employees won’t be the only ones who can’t view’s new outdoor billboards from their office windows. Nobody will. Clear Channel and Viacom have refused to mount the “offending” billboards around town, which carry the tag line: “There’s more online than news, sports and porn.”

“We think it [the creative] is great and it will run in wild postings. But with the billboards, we’re having a problem with censorship,” Jamie Pallot, editorial director of CondéNet, said Tuesday at the John Varvatos show. (CondéNet, like WWD, is a division of Advance Publications Inc.) He said wild postings will go up next week that contain the word “porn,” but he doesn’t expect any trouble with them. They read, “News, you won’t it find here. Sports, you won’t find it here. Porn, you won’t find it here. Explicit coverage of fashion, gear and style.”

The ad campaign was created by Laird + Partners. Pallot said they’re now talking to other agencies.