AUTO PILOTS: Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani and BMW have come together to design a special edition BMW 7 series model. The luxury vehicle was celebrated with a bash on Thursday night, where many of the guests ruminated on their more humble auto beginnings. Sozzani remembered her first car very clearly. “It was a Mini,” she said. When asked whether she was accident-prone as a young driver, she acknowledged, “some stupid things all the time — still today.” Katie Lee Joel’s first car was a 1991 Volvo 240, “and it was a tank,” she said. Meanwhile, Chanel Iman, all of 20 years old, has already owned two Mercedes and had as many fender benders. “I never hit anyone, but two people hit me,” she said. “I thought it was the end of the world.”

This story first appeared in the February 14, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

LUCKY CHARM: You can’t call Ecco Domani superstitious. The breakfast honoring this year’s Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award winners took place on Friday the 13th in an apartment-like space in the Garment District, on the 13th floor. (The elevator designated it “12A.”) If the emerging designers receiving the award prizes felt unlucky in their economic timing, 2002 honoree Zac Posen said he found himself in a similar boat when he held his first show after 9/11. “Our job is to creatively re-excite and re-invigorate the industry. That’s what happened after 9/11, and we’re at a moment when we could do it again,” he said. With commercial expectations low, “it’s a good time to enable yourself creatively,” he said. Posen reminisced about the many benefits of the award. “Since we started [my first] show late, editors and buyers were able to get drunk before the show,” thanks to winemaker Ecco Domani, he said. This year’s winners were Lyn Devon, Matthew Ames, Cushnie et Ochs by Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, and Ohne Titel by Alexa Adams and Flora Gill for women’s design; Corpus, by Jerrod Cornish and Keith Richardson, for men’s design; jeweler Monique Péan won for accessories, and Bodkin Brooklyn designers Eviana Hartman and Samantha Pleet for sustainable design.

FREE LOVE: Yves Saint Laurent is spreading the love this Valentine’s Day, giving away 12,000 black cotton tote bags, each containing images of the label’s spring ad campaign and a heart-shaped USB key. Over half a million copies of the 20-page campaign booklet will be distributed in Hong Kong, London, Milan, New York, Paris and Tokyo today. A copy will be included in each tote. This will be the fifth consecutive year that creative director Stefano Pilati has reached out to a wider demographic, offering merchandise to the masses.

MABILLE’S FIRST LADY: Michelle Obama is not the only first lady championing young designers. As hostess for a recent gala dinner for the Casip-Cojasor foundation, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France’s politically-charged style icon, opted for a little black dress by Alexis Mabille with a signature bow detail at the chest.

LANE’S NEW LINE: Even Hollywood jeweler Neil Lane is taking things down a notch to adapt to the recession — sort of. Lane teamed up with retailer Rochelle Gores to design a lower price point collection of gold and diamond jewelry that sells exclusively in Gore’s Melrose Avenue boutique Arcade. The collection, which includes Lane’s signature gold and diamond initial pendants, earrings, bracelets and necklaces ranges from $1400 to $9500 retail, with a $26,000 bracelet thrown in for good measure. At Thursday night’s launch party, which was attended by Sylvester Stallone, his wife Jennifer Flavin and their three daughters, Nicole Richie, and Kathy and Rick Hilton, Lane said he would consider expanding the lower price point collection to other stores.

SMYTHSON CUTS PRICES: Smythson has slashed the price of its famous leather-bound agendas by 50 percent for the first time in recent history. “Given the exceptional trading environment we have made the decision to put selected 2009 diaries on sale after Christmas,” said Paddy Byng, chief executive of the British brand. A spokeswoman said Smythson had ordered the 2009 agendas before economic conditions worsened and the company was left with surplus stock. However, she added that sales of the agendas were still up on the previous year. All agendas, except the limited edition Art Diaries, have been reduced. A medium-sized calfskin Soho agenda with a raspberry alligator print is now $200, down from $400.

FASHION HOUSE: MacKenzie-Childs is getting in on the action this fashion week. The quirky home furnishings brand, known for churning out whimsical pieces like gingham tea pots and multi-colored tuffets, has teamed up with Verrier Collection designer Ashleigh Verrier for a special in-store display that spans the worlds of high fashion and interior design. “Inspired Imaginings,” a series of mannequins sporting Verrier’s girlie frocks from her fall 2008 and spring 2009 collections placed alongside MacKenzie-Childs products, will be on display at the Mackenzie-Childs outpost on West 57th Street until Feb. 27. At a reception to celebrate the exhibit’s opening, held on Wednesday night, Verrier discussed the importance of such cross-branding, especially in this economic climate. “When you are at point in the economy when things are down, I think people come together and try and support each other any way they can,” she said.

VICTORIA’S WORST KEPT SECRET: It’s the ultimate question, isn’t it — what is sexy? It’s no surprise Victoria’s Secret considers itself an expert on the subject and so the lingerie company drew up a list of sexy people whom they celebrated Wednesday night with a bash at the Bowery Hotel. Kelly Ripa? Sexiest Smile. Stephen Colbert? Sexiest Funny Guy. Beyoncé? Sexiest Musician. Unfortunately not all the winners were present for the party, which just meant that actor Robert Buckley (Sexiest Newcomer) got all the sexy Victoria’s Secret models who were there all to himself.

HOT TYPE: A Jean Paul Gaultier biography is in the works, by French journalist Elisabeth Gouslan. “Gaultier is a fundamental personality in fashion,” said Gouslan, who writes for Madame Figaro magazine. Gouslan said she plans to interview luminaries from both cinema and fashion for her book. So far Jean Charles de Castalbajac, Pierre Cardin and Martin Margiela have been approached, along with actresses Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Adjani. The yet-untitled tome, to be published by Grasset, is slated for release this fall.

CANINE FRIENDS: Roberto Cavalli is no stranger when it comes to animals. He frequently likes to pepper his collections with an animal print here and there (or everywhere) and he and his wife Eva share a home with a family of pets that includes a Bishon Frise and a St. Bernard dog, two monkeys, seven parrots, three cats, one iguana and more horses than the couple cares to remember. This spring, however, the designer is giving his canine friends a special treat with Roberto Cavalli Pets. The clothing collection for dogs will include special velour tracksuits, puffer jackets, a satin-trimmed bathrobe, silk printed shorts and even some shearling jackets. There are also accessories like a quilted dog carrier bag, collars, leashes and a patent leather dog passport wallet. Cavalli’s designs maintain a tongue-in-cheek quality. For instance, the jaguar print is actually made up of small paw prints upon closer inspection. “It’s about glamour, fun and just a little dash of flash,” Eva Cavalli said of the line which launches next month. She expects her own dogs to be sporting all of the pieces. “They’re the fit models, and I’ve tested the whole collection on them,” she said. “In this sense, they’re quite spoiled. Then again, you know, being part of the Cavalli family has its advantages.”

MBLEM NO MOORE: Mandy Moore gave a select crew of Japanese fashion editors a preview of her upcoming album Monday night with a mini concert to fete Coach’s new Tokyo headquarters. Moore belted out a smattering of her folk-infused tunes from the soon-to-be released “Amanda Leigh”, while her co-writer and producer Mike Viola backed her on acoustic guitar. For the cover of the album, she turned to Coach president and creative director Reed Krakoff to shake up her wholesome image and show a more “adult” side of her personality. “Amanda Leigh” drops May 26.

Moore said that even though she has a couple film projects looming, she is focusing on her music and an upcoming tour for now. Even fashion is taking a backseat. The singer/actress, whose now-fiancee Ryan Adams accompanied her on the trip, revealed that she just shuttered her clothing brand Mblem. The contemporary label was launched in 2005.

“I love the fashion world. I’m fascinated by it. I’m humbled by it,” she said. “If I were to dip my toe back in there, it would have to be the right situation: a great partnership that could represent a true reflection of me and my ideas and you know that wasn’t happening. So next go round, that needs to be top of the list.”

VIVIENNE AT THE RACES: Is Dame Vivienne Westwood, the punk princess who famously refused to wear knickers when she received official honors from the Royal Family, embracing the establishment? Late last year, she dressed the Duchess of Cornwall, and now she’s collaborating on the latest campaign for Royal Ascot, a major event in the British racing calendar which Queen Elizabeth II, her family, and friends attend. Shot by Finlay MacKay, the campaign features model Marta Berzkhana wearing a series of Westwood Gold Label gowns and Stephen Jones hats. “Royal Ascot is a British institution for showing off clothes, and I like the idea of a group of people gathered together,” said Westwood. The campaign was shot on location at a stud farm in Gloucestershire, England. Westwood ­ and other British designers – will also take part in a fashion show at Royal Ascot, which runs from June 16-20.

HEY, BIG SPENDER: Has the credit crunch bitten Harrods honcho Mohamed Al-Fayed? Earlier this week, at the opening of Abercrombie & Kent’s travel consultancy at Harrods, WWD asked Al-Fayed if he’d ever been on an Abercrombie & Kent trip. “No, but I’ll go if I’m given a free holiday,” he said within earshot of Geoffrey Kent, chairman and chief executive, after the ribbon-cutting. Guests, including Trudie Styler, Valentine Guinness and Sir David Frost, quaffed champagne and nibbled on airplane-shaped chocolate lollipops inside the company’s sleek new basement space.

DOUBLES ALL ROUND: Denizens of rainy London crammed into the city’s Double Club for a Prada and Gagosian-hosted party Tuesday night, to get a hint of sunnier climes at the Congolese-meets-Western themed venue, a Fondazione Prada project tucked away down a cobbled alleyway in North London. Guests including Bryan Ferry, Katie Grand, Fiona Scarry, Liz Goldwyn, Charlotte Stockdale and Annabelle Neilson all turned out to sip lychee vodka cocktails and African beer. “I love the African band,” said a Hugo Boss-clad Anouck Lepere, who was on the lookout for her pals in the cavernous club after taking in a set from the band Sound Africa, while Neilson said she was just pleased to give her nipped in Alexander McQueen tuxedo suit for spring “its first outing.” Takashi Murakami and Larry Gagosian also tipped up to the party after a private view of the artist’s work at London’s Gagosian gallery. While Murakami said he planned to hit up a few antiques markets during his London stay, Gagosian preferred to retain an air of mystery about his thoughts on the artsy club’s theme. “Who has time to think?” he queried.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…: Not only are designers vying to dress Hollywood’s top talent for the 81st Academy Awards Feb. 22 but a collection of seven designers are competing online to outfit the model who delivers the golden statuettes to the stage. As part of the “Oscars Designer Challenge,” with online voting at, Chicagoan Maria Pinto, known for dressing Michelle Obama on the campaign trial, will go up against fellow Chicago designer Sam Kori George, New Yorkers Moire Conroy and Nicolas Putvinski and three designers from Los Angeles, Alan Del Rosario, Marianne Kooimans and Robert Rodriguez. The winning design will be announced during “Oscar’s Red Carpet 2009,” the live arrivals show airing at 5 p.m. Feb. 22

G-STAR GETS BULLISH: G-Star Raw will be dispensing with the hydraulic lifts and conveyer belt catwalk that have defined its fashion shows in recent years in favor of a more traditional runway show when it unveils its fall collection Tuesday night. This doesn’t mean the Dutch industrial-inspired label will abandon all signs of showmanship. Benicio Del Toro has been tapped as the latest G-Star Icon, taking over for Dennis Hopper, and will take part in the show. A grand piano will also be present on stage as part of the show’s music compilation. However, there is no word on exactly who will be tickling the ivories.


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