SEARCH FUNCTION: It looks like Barneys New York will be obliged to widen its search for a new women’s fashion director. Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Hong Kong-based Lane Crawford, who had been considered a frontrunner, told WWD she’s staying put. “I have no intention or plans to leave Lane Crawford,” she said over the weekend. Vogue’s Virginia Smith, also cited as a candidate for the Barneys post, plans to remain at the magazine, as reported.

This story first appeared in the December 6, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

VERSACE REACTS: A recording of an interview alleging ties between the Versace family and the ’Ndrangheta — Calabria’s equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia — was made public late Thursday night on a local news program in Italy. The interview, which took place between Italian writer Gianluigi Nuzzi and a former top member of the criminal organization who turned state’s evidence, contained various claims including one that would link Gianni Versace’s death to debts he allegedly owed to the ’Ndrangheta.

The Italian fashion house promptly sent out a statement vehemently denying these reports. “With reference to advance press reports relating to the content of a book published by Chiarelettere, we categorically state that it is based on the false and shameful allegations and ‘confessions’ of a former member of the ’Ndrangheta,” the company said. “The Versace family, together with Gianni Versace SpA, utterly refute these baseless allegations and reserve the right to take every possible civil and criminal action against anybody who repeats or propagates these allegations, and to protect the reputation of the company and the memory of Gianni Versace.”

PAM AND GELA, PART DEUX: Juicy Couture co-founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor still have months to go before their non-compete with Liz Claiborne Inc. expires, but the oft-seen-around-L.A. designers are dropping hints about their next venture.

“It will reflect the way we dress now,” said Skaist-Levy, who was dressed in a vintage Dior full-skirted houndstooth frock at a recent ladies lunch. “We have outgrown our track suits and grown up.”

In addition to a myriad of vintage pieces, Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor also favor furry jackets and vests by Lanvin and Burberry, black leather pants and leggings, and sky-high heels. No doubt a seamstress is hard at work stitching up some posh-meets-rocker samples for an imminent debut.

TARGETING TOPSHOP: Topshop’s Oxford Circus store in London closed temporarily Saturday morning after some 200 people staged a sit-in to protest the tax status of Sir Philip Green, the retailer’s owner. The protest is part of a wider action in the U.K. against companies and individuals who are perceived to be tax dodgers. Vodafone has been another target. Green and his wife are longtime residents of Monte Carlo. Green’s retail group, Arcadia, is registered in the U.K. and pays taxes there. The protesters, organized by a group called UK Uncut, targeted other Arcadia-owned stores on Saturday, but no other closures were reported.

PETE DOHERTY — JEWELER?: Until now, rocker Pete Doherty’s most memorable connection to the fashion world had been his tumultuous, two-year relationship with Kate Moss. But he is now forging his own path in the style world through a jewelry collection designed with London jeweler Hannah Martin. The line, called Albion Trinketry, is made up of chunky oxidized silver chain necklaces and bracelets, silver medal-shape cuff links and bold rings made from rose gold and mammoth tusk. Doherty unveiled it last week at Joseph in London’s Westbourne Grove. “I’m like a magpie really in a lot of ways,” said Doherty, in between drags on a cigarette. “I’ve always collected [jewelry], unsuccessfully most of it — you treasure it and it gets lost.”

Doherty said the jeweler was inspired by his collection of “trinkets. I’ve got ivory, cigarette tins, old cases, old glass,” he said.

Martin said she drew inspiration from Doherty’s collectibles, namely elephant figurines, military jackets and taxidermy. Prices range from 425 pounds, or $663 at current exchange, for a pair of silver cuff links, to 8,725 pounds, or $13,600, for a solid rose gold ring. “It’s just a shame I can’t afford to buy them myself,” Doherty said. “They cost a fortune.”

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