KEEPING UP WITH CALVIN: Fruit of the Loom has emerged as the top contender to take over Calvin Klein’s CK jeans business, according to sources. A spokeswoman for Calvin Klein Inc. had “no comment” Thursday on the reports, but sources close to the company indicate Klein is seriously negotiating with the big Chicago-based underwear and casualwear maker.

But high finance didn’t keep Calvin from feting the press with a party at Barocco Wednesday night. Asked if he had a cache of safe little minis back in the showroom along with all those new over-the-knee skirts, Klein said what you saw on the runway is what you’ll get on the racks. “People don’t need these clothes; they have to want them,” Klein said. “Why give them something they already have?” Besides, he noted that the new skirts are proportioned so that a quick trip to the tailor will lessen their edge: “Do people have to be geniuses to figure out that they can turn up a skirt?”

THEY’RE WATCHING: Designers may not have known it, but the organizers of 7th on Sixth were keeping track of which shows started on time, which didn’t, and which shows kept audiences in their seats the longest.

Adrienne Vittadini gets the first on-time award for starting her show just 15 minutes late. Second best on-time record goes to Cathy Hardwick, just 17 minutes late, with third place a tie between Oscar de la Renta and Randolph Duke for starting their shows 19 minutes past schedule.

Laura Whitcomb gets the nod-off award for starting the latest — 51 minutes late — with Isabel Toledo second latest at 49 minutes and Escada third latest, at 47 minutes.

The “I just can’t seem to edit” award goes to Betsey Johnson for having the longest show, at 45 minutes, followed by the Fortrel EcoSpun show, at 34 minutes. The “keep-it-brief” award for the shortest show goes to Lauren Sara for her eight minute presentation, with Robert Danes second shortest, at 10 minutes.

BACKSTAGE MAN: Louis Dell’Olio, always the gentleman, hung out backstage with Donna Karan at her collection show Wednesday evening, just to lend support. “It was great having him with us,” said Patti Cohen, Karan’s spokeswoman. “He was just there as a friend, that was all.”

CASHING IN: By Wednesday night, some simply said ‘Basta’ to the fashion world and went down home instead to check out the ultimate country crooner, Johnny Cash. Kate Moss and Johnny Depp, as well as Rachel Williams and Eric Goode, settled in at downtown club Fez, where Cash — who for years has made his own fashion statement by wearing only black — played for an invitation-only audience.

DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT: Dr. Martens, the footwear uniform of the new generation of punks and grungers, is launching its clothing line next Thursday at a show at Tribeca Grill.

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