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NIC AND CLICK: Nicolas Ghesquière is the latest fashion designer reaching out to cyber shoppers. Balenciaga plans to open its first e-commerce site on U.S. territory on May 15, proposing bags, shoes, sunglasses, scarves and jewelry. “It is an extension and adaptation of the existing site,” said a Balenciaga spokesman of the imminent online boutique, designed by Baron & Baron Inc. in collaboration with Avenue A.

HE’S BAAAACK: Leave it to The Terminator to silence the Four Season’s Grill Room Thursday. The lunch crowd seemed to draw a collective pause, when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger paraded past with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in tow. Before ducking into a private room for a mano-a-mano talk, the mayor stopped to greet a few fans and even posed for a photo or two.

This story first appeared in the April 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The sighting may not have quelled any speculation about some sort of political dream ticket, but their appearance was due to something more concrete than that. They unveiled the third annual New York City card, a credit card-size guide highlighting issue-related talking points for Gotham’s heavyweight political donors. Afterward, Charlie Rose peppered them with questions, while Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Herbert Allen, Donald Marron, George Walker and other bigwigs listened in and dined on poached wild striped bass.

Homeland security, affordable housing, climate change and other weighty topics surprisingly managed to grab guests by the gullet at the alcohol-free luncheon. Karan, never a shy one when it comes to seeking inspiration, left with more food for thought. “I was so inspired. We all have to appreciate the people in the city who do make things happen and contribute in some way,” she said. “Everybody is always pointing fingers rather than making a difference and taking responsibility. It really is a message of choice. In times like these, people need to prioritize.”

Bloomberg advised attendees not to draw party lines, downplaying the adversarial nature of Democrats versus Republicans.

But the Republican governor could not let that one rest, telling the crowd that no one can relate to that more than he can. He wakes up next to a Democrat each morning, he said, referring to his wife, the long-standing Kennedy Democrat Maria Shriver.

As for what was said once Bloomberg and Schwarzenegger were behind closed doors is anyone’s guess. The Four Seasons’ Julian Niccolini said, “Most people with a brain would vote for them. They really make too much sense.”

RIGHT AND LEFT: It looks like Ralph Lauren will not be joining the stampede to Palais Royal, which is becoming a hot Paris destination for designer shopping. The American designer was to open an outpost in the chic square, home to boutiques by Marc Jacobs, Rick Owens, Acne and, coming soon, Stella McCartney. Word has it Lauren now plans to focus energies on his two other major boutiques in the works for the French capital: one on tony Avenue Montaigne and another on Boulevard Saint-Germain on the Left Bank.

VINTAGE AUCTION: Hubert de Givenchy and some of the world’s top designers have donated items from their private collections to a vintage auction in Florence on Saturday in aid of children suffering from leprosy in Calcutta. De Givenchy, who donated that black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the last Asta Vintage di Beneficenza in 2006, will also attend the event and chair the jury for a competition between fashion students from around the world. Roberto Cavalli, Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferré, Alberta Ferretti, Antonio Marras, Emilio Pucci and Sonia Rykiel have also donated items to the event in aid of the Dominique Lapierre Foundation. Some of the items under the hammer include the Bluemarine dress worn by Jennifer Lopez at the 2000 London premiere of her film “The Cell,” Enrico Coveri’s 1985 paillette dress and the Belstaff jacket worn by Leonardo di Caprio in the film “The Aviator.” In total, 5,000 items have been donated, a selection of which will be auctioned, while the remainder will be put on sale via a special show. The three-day show opens today.

RICCI REDO: The Nina Ricci flagship in Paris is getting a top-to-toe makeover. The landmark boutique at 33 Avenue Montaigne was shuttered last week for extensive construction work, including the alteration of its central staircase, to make way for a new design concept by Ricci’s artistic director, Olivier Theyskens.

The boutique is slated to reopen this summer with a decor melding elements of a typical Parisian apartment with the mood of Venice in wintertime. Elements include gray marble floors, moldings inspired by the 19th century, walls covered with jacquard fabric and futuristic furniture.

Having applied his ethereal and romantic approach to Ricci’s fashion collections for the past three seasons, Theyskens is now extending his aesthetic to the retail floor and, later this year, to a complete accessories collection.

TRUE BRIT: “It’s got to be English — we’re not going to give it an American twist,” said Sir Philip Green, discussing the launch of Topshop’s first New York store, during a viewing of Topshop’s fall collections at London’s Royal Academy. Indeed, Green is so keen on giving a London edge to the brand’s first U.S. unit that he’s flying some of Topshop’s English staff to New York to run the store in its first weeks, and is even toying with the idea of setting a fleet of red double-decker buses on the streets of New York to celebrate the store’s launch in October.

Green added that he was looking at opening “a couple more stores” in Manhattan, alongside the brand’s U.S. flagship at 478 Broadway in SoHo, but said that finding the right location was an issue. “We don’t want to be on every street corner,” he said.

STELLA’S NEW SUNGLASSES: Luxottica Group SpA has signed an agreement with Stella McCartney to design, produce and distribute Stella McCartney sunglasses worldwide. The agreement begins in January 2009, and the first collection under the agreement will launch in summer of that year. The company said McCartney “will personally follow each step of the creative process, together with the Luxottica design and product team.” The license agreement will last for an initial term of six years and is then automatically renewable for an additional five-year term.

“This new agreement is geared toward strengthening further the presence of Stella McCartney eyewear in the market and aims to further increase the international development of the brand,” said Marco Bizzarri, chief executive of Stella McCartney. McCartney first produced an eyewear range with Safilo in 2003, an agreement that expires at the end of 2008.

FAMILY STYLE: Apparently, there really is such a thing as an amicable Hollywood divorce. Ellen Barkin and Gabrielle Byrne officially split nine years ago, but they were yukking it up with their children, Romy and Jack, Wednesday night. The foursome were all smiles over a leisurely dinner at Keith McNally’s Morandi, sharing a few laughs and spoonfuls.

SASSOON THE HERO: Vidal Sassoon is known as a radical in the history of hair care, but now it seems his fighting spirit extended to antifascist politics. This week, the British hairdresser’s early years as a foot-soldier in a London antifascist movement, the 43 Group, founded in 1946 by Jewish ex-servicemen, will be revealed as part of a BBC Radio 4 documentary, “Archive House: A Rage in Dalston.” The program, to air on Saturday, describes the teenage Sassoon’s battles against Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, in East London after World War II. Sassoon, now 80, grew up in London’s East End and his day job at the time was trainee barber at a London salon. He describes going to work one morning after breaking up a pro-Mosley meeting: “I’ll never forget. I walked in and I had a hell of a bruise. It had been a difficult night, and a client said to me, ‘Good God, Vidal, what happened to your face?’ and I said, ‘Oh nothing, madam, I slipped on a hairpin.’” He added of his fellow 43 Group members: “I was 17, these were all ex-servicemen at least five or six years older than me, and many of them won medals. I was a private.” The 43 Group fought against Mosley and his cronies, breaking up their meetings with knives and razor blades, until 1950 when the group disbanded.

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