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BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED: For every stiletto wearer whose cell phone, BlackBerry or iPhone has run out of power at the exact wrong time, there’s now a chic and portable way to recharge. C’N’C Costume National designer Ennio Capasa has come up with the Solar bag, a handbag for fall on which fine strips of mini solar panels that decorate the front of the bag provide power to a supply concealed in the lining. The Solar bag comes in either burgundy or black suede. “I put a challenge into the project: to make Italian luxury contemporary,” said Capasa. “I imagined a pop, chic bag and I am satisfied with the result.” Capasa also created a bag with a step counter to measure how many steps you can take 4 inches off the ground.

LETTING IT RIP: Ears were ringing amid the fashion press Friday morning during a panel discussion moderated by Decades’ Cameron Silver at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, at which honorary degree recipient Ralph Rucci, sitting alongside fellow degree honoree James Galanos, lamented the demise of modern fashion due in part to “unwearable” editorial pieces. “I think we’re in a state of mediocrity,” Rucci told the students. “Magazines are totally unrelatable to what you look like. The future depends on your pressing for individuality and not fitting into a form that’s been preordained.”

Co-panelist Michael Fink, vice president and women’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, then asked the crowd, “Where are the ideas that are relevant to modern women? Where are the clothes that are well thought out? As a retailer, we have to sell the clothes. If there are things that are meant for a museum, wonderful, but don’t put them on the runway.”

Rucci, who started his business 26 years ago, added, “To show a garment that’s difficult to wear, that just has a concept to it, is not fashion.”

When asked by students which designers he’s excited about, Fink mentioned Alexander Wang, Doo-Ri Chung and Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte.

Galanos, who is 83 and retired in 1998 after a career designing form-fitting dresses for women including Rosalind Russell and Nancy Reagan, agreed with the panelists, noting: “You can do works of art and they can still be commercial. If it’s good, it’s going to relate to people. Young people must learn the difference between something that is stylish and elegant and something that is ridiculous.”

This story first appeared in the April 29, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

SPEED DEMONS: At Saturday’s premiere of the cartoon-turned-live action film “Speed Racer” at downtown Los Angeles’ Nokia Center, which was tricked out to resemble a speedway complete with cars, stars Emile Hirsch and Christina Ricci compared notes about their respective action scenes. “I did some stunts,” Hirsch said, “but most of them were my stunt guy, the five-time kung fu champion of the world!”

Ricci (in Bill Blass) countered: “I did lots of my own stunts — including all the kung fu fighting.” Both petite stars wore Puma Motorsport suits throughout the film, for which the company was an official partner, even designing a Speed Racer sneaker that stars signed on Saturday, with auction proceeds going to charity. The after party offered guests such as BFFs Kate Beckinsale and Victoria Beckham a chance to race in go-karts and snack from pretzel stands and cotton candy booths.

SPRING FLOWERS: Contemporary designer Rebecca Taylor has partnered with Manhattan flower shop Belle Fleur to create a custom Mother’s Day arrangement. Taylor said she decided to partner with the florist after being inspired by her own 14-month-old twin girls, Zoe and Isabel. “Being a newish mom, I had fun thinking about what flowers I would love to receive,” she said. “The variety of flowers in season this time of year are incredible — it made my job very easy. I wanted to make the bouquet really fresh and springlike, not too contrived. I am sending one to my mom this year.”

The bouquet, which costs $150 (plus a $20 delivery fee in Manhattan), includes an arrangement of lisianthus, sweet peas, white lilacs, parrot tulips and peonies.

BRIONI’S FAREWELL BID: Brioni is closing its women’s store at 67 East 57th Street in Manhattan, WWD has learned. The Italian luxury house instead plans to sell its women’s line from the adjacent men’s store at 57 East 57th Street. Brioni had opened the 1,500-square-foot stand-alone boutique at the base of the Four Seasons hotel in 2002, signaling a major push into the women’s sector, which also included hiring Cristina Ortiz as creative director of Brioni women’s wear in 2005. Ortiz left for Ferragamo last year and hasn’t been replaced, leading some to speculate that Brioni was winding down its women’s business. Antonella De Simone, who oversees marketing and communications at Brioni, said the company remains committed to its nascent women’s business, which generates about 10 percent of turnover. “We have no intention of closing it,” she said.

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