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MANGIA, MANGIA: If Brunello Cucinelli is hosting a party, you can count on having heartfelt speeches and hearty Italian food. That holds true, evidently, even if the party is not in Tuscany during Pitti Uomo, but on the second floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. Last week the designer and retailer feted their partnership. Michael Bastian and Rachel Roy were among the guests, who all seemed to ditch their usual finicky eating habits for an impressive spread of Umbrian dishes.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

PIECE BY PIECE: Launches and openings may be a standard occurrence on the party circuit, but a fete to celebrate the release of a jigsaw puzzle is still something slightly out of the ordinary. That’s exactly what took place at Industria Superstudios on Monday night when Shiseido hosted a cocktail reception for the unveiling of the RxArt 2009 puzzle, a 200-piece mash-up of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s 2008 self portrait. (The party also toasted Shiseido’s new skin care line, Future Solution LX.) Jason Wu, Daphne Guinness, Becka Diamond and Harley Viera-Newton were on hand to take a look at the new toy, sales of which will benefit RxArt, a charity that exposes hospital patients to contemporary art. Indeed, there were some interested customers. “This puzzle is where art meets whimsy,” enthused Wu, who said he also had plans to commission the artist for paintings for his new office.

KNOWING WHAT HE’S GOOD AT: On his way to Singapore to officially open Custo Barcelona’s first store there, designer Custo Dalmau stopped in Hong Kong to check on his year-old unit and to host a luncheon at Aqua, famed for its panoramic views of Victoria Harbour. During the lunch, Dalmau told stories of his two-and-a-half-year motorcycle adventure across the U.S. and through South America, which he and brother David completed 30 years ago. “There were no cell phones, no e-mail, just telex. Does anyone remember telex?” he said, recalling that the trip led directly to the founding of Custo Barcelona. “We saw these printed T-shirts in California and we had never seen anything like them,” he said, noting psychedelic surfer shirts inspired the Dalmaus to print graphic designs on T-shirts in their native Spain.

The trip also prompted Dalmau to give up studying architecture. Asked if he uses his background to help create store concepts for Custo Barcelona, Dalmau laughed. “No, it’s better I don’t. I was terrible at it,” he said.

MILLA TIME: Tommy Hilfiger has Milla Jovovich in the bag. According to a Hilfiger spokeswoman, the model-cum-actress has been tapped to design the next limited edition Breast Health International bag for the brand. Helena Christensen acted as ambassador for the last bag released in aid of the nonprofit organization. The new design is expected in April. Meanwhile, the label has also tapped windsurfing legend Robby Naish to front a campaign for a line of Tommy Hilfiger men’s tailored pieces. “It will have a real vintage feel,” said the spokeswoman.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Thom Browne got to play gallerist last week at his TriBeCa store, where he installed an exhibition of paintings by GQ deputy editor Michael Hainey. The paintings, including some portraits and a series called “How I Learned to Pray,” in which each work features a crow and a line from a poem that Hainey wrote, are on display through Nov. 11. Guests at the opening included Nora Ephron and interior designer Nate Berkus.

HALLOWEEN HIJINX: Wilhelmina Models president Sean Patterson drew a high-wattage crowd of costumed revelers to his New York apartment on Halloween, including Kylie Minogue (dressed as a mime), Fergie (Cleopatra), Marc Jacobs and Lorenzo Martone (spandex-clad superheroes) and Bally’s Brian Atwood. Later in the night, Jacobs, Minogue, Fergie and their entourages piled into a fleet of SUVs and hit up gay nightclub Club 57 and then Avenue. There, a flack for men’s wear brand Commonwealth Utilities coaxed Minogue into leaving a cell phone message for Richard Christiansen, an owner of the label and ardent fan of the Aussie singer.

L&T’S NIGHT: Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue flagship will crank it up Thursday evening with its “Love at First Sight” event, combining the party spirit of Fashion’s Night Out with a commercial spin. The spotlight will be on 50 trendy vendors, “rocker chic” looks, and deals, from a 20 percent off savings pass to a free Flip camera for anyone spending at least $600 in the contemporary department. Eighties pop star Lisa Lisa and DJs Harley Viera Newton, Omi and Lindsay Love will perform. A runway show will feature finalists from the alumni of Parsons The New School for Design who entered an L&T party dress design competition. “America’s Next Top Model” judge Nigel Barker will be among the celebrity judges picking three winners. Phoebe Couture will manufacture the winning designs and L&T will sell them next spring, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. “Love at First Sight’s first installment was at L&T last spring.

GET THEM EARLY: How to rebuild a brand in the Internet era? Go online. Stealing a page from “Project Runway,” Keds is seeking up-and-coming designers from all walks of life to create custom shoes. So far, aspiring designers including a chef, a tattoo artist, a musician and a graphic designer have been tapped to be a part of “Keds Collective,” a Web site where people can transform a plain pair of white Keds into a one-of-a-kind design. “This is a key part of our strategy in rebuilding our brand,” said Kristin Kohler Burrows, president of Keds, adding online marketing is already part of its overall mix, but it will be a larger percentage moving forward. Any visitor to the site can purchase the custom shoes, which means the new “designers” can actually make money off their own creations. “Customization is the way everything is going,” said Evan Vogel, co-founder of Night Agency, the firm behind the design of the site. “It’s also creating a new revenue stream for Keds.”

MINT CONDITION: Jodi Arnold, designer of Mint by Jodi Arnold, rang in the opening of her first boutique at 56 University Place in New York’s Greenwich Village on Thursday night with a reception to showcase both her collection and the artwork of Vicky Barranguet, whose prints inspired much of Arnold’s upcoming spring collection. Starting with her resort collection, Arnold will be rebranding her Mint line as Jodi Arnold NYC. Her Mint collection is sold in about 150 stores around the world, but this marks her first venture into retail. Arnold is still negotiating a longer term lease for the space, but has confirmed a life span of at least 56 days, during which she has organized events almost every night to bring together networks of advertising, fashion and art worlds. When she’s not popping in to check on things, Arnold will be busy working on her upcoming collaboration with The Limited stores, due out this spring.


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