WE ARE FAMILY: Alexander McQueen had his first brush with fine jewelry, and now it’s destined for retail. The designer collaborated in November with his Gucci Group stablemate Boucheron in aid of the Red Cross Ball in London, creating a snakeskin version of his Novak clutch with a removable gold snake clasp that went for 36,000 pounds, or about $63,200 at current exchange, at auction. A limited-edition run of the bag, labeled Alexander McQueen for Boucheron, is destined for Boucheron and Alexander McQueen’s London stores this fall — the price is still to be determined.

Meanwhile, the designer has expanded his personal real estate portfolio, recently buying a modern glass villa in Majorca, Spain. He vacationed there for a week following his blockbuster show in Paris. “I wish I’d stayed there,” the designer said Friday upon his return to damp England.

PEDRO AND PE: Penélope Cruz delivered some Hollywood glam to her home turf Thursday at the premiere of Pedro Almodóvar‘s latest film, “Volver,” held in the Palacio de la Musica in Madrid. Wearing a flirty white eyelet gown by Dolce & Gabbana with hair swept back in a tidy bun, Pe (as she’s known to friends) arrived with a tie-less Matthew McConaughey and Almodóvar, sporting a plaid bomber jacket and dark jeans.

They were joined on the red carpet by a slew of fashion buddies and ex — and current — Almodóvar chicas including “Volver” co-star Carmen Maura in orange sequins; Geraldine Chaplin wearing a chubby-esque jacket and boho skirt; Rossy DePalma in vintage black and white; Rosario Flores (who played the lady bullfighter in “Talk to Her”); Cruz’s sister and TV star Monica Cruz, in a sexy black dress that looked like a nightie; top Spanish model Bimba Bosé in a fluid mocha gown and cardigan sweater by Madrid-based designer David Delfin; megaretailer Elena Benarroch with her husband, sculptor Adolfo Barnatán, and Amalia Zunzunegui, owner of the Giorgio Armani franchise in Spain.

This story first appeared in the March 20, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

An ode to La Mancha, Almodóvar’s birthplace, “Volver” explores the region’s strict rural ways, family unity and the rituals of death. For the 55-year-old director, “Volver,” which means “return” in English, is exactly that: a return to what he knows best, he says — comedy and women.

At a press conference earlier in the week, he was more than happy to wax poetic on his leading lady’s assets. “Penélope’s tits are her own; she hasn’t had an operation,” though she does sport a fake tush in the film. “Penélope’s character is seductive, strong-willed and full of life,” added Almodóvar. “It’s the gutsiest role of her career.”

Cruz agreed. “Working with Pedro is another world. I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve done,” she said. “My work in Europe is more demanding. I hope to find similar material in the U.S.” Her countrymen can expect to see more of Cruz in the near future: Next month, she’ll be back in Madrid to shoot “Manolete,” starring Adrien Brody as the iconic Forties matador.

JOINING YSL: Continuing to build her management team at Yves Saint Laurent, chief executive Valerie Hermann has tapped Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur as her new communication director, WWD has learned. Previously, he was international marketing director at Christian Dior Parfums, and his résumé includes a stint at Boucheron. At YSL, du Pré de Saint Maur is expected to be responsible for press and external relations, events, media planning, visual merchandising, marketing and corporate image.

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