BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eager to get back into fashion, Matteo Marzotto has bought Vionnet, the legendary French couture house, according to industry sources. Further details were unavailable at press time and Marzotto could not be reached for comment. But the 42-year-old had been looking to make a fashion deal for the last year, ever since he left Valentino, where he was chairman for six years. Vionnet, which still holds a spot in fashion’s history thanks to a body-clinging bias cut invented by Madeleine Vionnet in 1922, is a company whose turnaround has been tumultuous. Sophia Kokosalaki left in May 2007, just a year into her creative director post, and was replaced by Marc Audibet, who bid adieu a year ago, after only one season. Arnaud de Lummen, chief executive officer of the brand, said last June that a private investor had taken a “small” stake in the house and that he was looking for additional investors.

This story first appeared in the February 17, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

IT’S A JUICY BIRD: The Juicy Couture girls have cooked up a new line they are showing to retailers at The Bowery Hotel this week, WWD has learned. Called simply “Bird,” the collection is expected to include chic, rocker-inspired pieces that retail at a higher price point than Juicy Couture. According to the company, it’s for the girl who grew up wearing Juicy and is now looking for more sophisticated apparel. The line, which is designed by Juicy co-founders Pam Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, is being kept under wraps for now, with Juicy officials declining comment.

PEET EXPERIENCE: Longtime Thakoon fan Amanda Peet, who went to Columbia with his stylist Tina Chai, made an appearance in his front row on Monday. The actress just wrapped a film with John Cusack, “2012,” directed by Roland Emmerich (“The Day After Tomorrow” and “Independence Day”). “It’s about the end of the world,” she said, deadpan. Besides working on the film, which will come out in November, Peet has been hanging out with husband David Benioff and daughter Frances Pen. “She likes to put my shoes on,” said Peet, “and her dad’s, though they are about the same size as she is.”

SONG CYCLE: Designer Brian Reyes’ after party is more like an afternoon tea since it’s from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. following his show on Thursday. But those who attend the fete, hosted by Poppy Delevigne and Lauren Remington Platt as well as Gilt Groupe, will be treated to a midday surprise: a performance by Niia. The young singer and pianist, a Massachusetts native who trained as a classical musician, was discovered by Wyclef Jean. She sings on his single “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” and her mentor will be in the audience on Thursday to cheer his protégé along. Also there will be longtime Reyes fan Rachel Bilson.

SCAM ARTIST: Ron Smith, a man who bills himself as a business manager at a show production and public relations firm called S30 PR, seems to be scamming young designers yet again this season. Smith was assigned to work on shows for designers Julianna Bass, Allison Parrish and Cindy Renee Mathieu of Sodaliscious Clothing. That was until he alerted the designers via text message on Saturday morning saying, “After tirelessly going over the details of the show and the other designers show and the fact that all funds were not paid in, we have to cancel the show.” Bass, who said she gave Smith $7,500 toward show production costs, said Smith first called her after she was profiled in a new designers story in WWD last June. “He said he focused on helping up-and-coming designers who can’t afford to have shows at the tents during fashion week,” Bass explained. “He sounded very knowledgeable and trustworthy, I had no reason to believe he was scamming me.” Bass, who was scheduled to show her fall collection at the West Side Loft on Wednesday at 8 p.m., has managed to pull together some extra funds from friends and family and will now show at Mr. West Lounge at 559 West 22nd Street on the same date and time. Parrish was also scheduled to present her line at West Side Loft. She will now show her line at Greenhouse at 150 Varick Street today at 11 a.m. Sodaliscious Clothing has opted to postpone its show until a later date. All designers involved said they have been trying to reach Smith in hopes of getting their money back but he never returned their calls.
Smith’s first scam was reported back in September 2007 when he pulled the plug on a group fashion show he organized at the Hudson Hotel, disappointing participants who got word via an e-mail that read, “Show is not happening. Best, Ron.” One designer involved in that show in 2007 was Vengsarkar Budhu, who gave Smith $5,500 to participate. He said he received Smith’s e-mail that the show was canceled the day before it was supposed to take place. Budhu said he has never recovered the money and has been unable to reach Smith. Repeated calls to Smith’s cell phone by WWD were not returned.


GUITAR HERO: With “American Idol” alum Katherine McPhee seated front row at Brazilian designer Carlos Miele’s show on Monday, music was in the air. But the designer had another musical prize in store for guests, which included Carine Roitfeld, Eugenia Silva and Angie Everhart. Miele flew in friend and musical phenom Max de Castro from São Paulo to strum along to the recorded music he helped orchestrate. “Max is one of the most talented musicians from Brazil,” said Miele. “I have not met any anyone who is able to mix Brazilian rhythms with international music the way he does.”
McPhee, clearly intrigued by de Castro’s riffs, tried to focus equally on the looks trotting down the runway. “I didn’t know [Carlos] before, but I got all these beautiful dresses to wear,” she said. “It’s always fun going out and getting dressed up.”

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 two dogs — a Bichon Frise and a St. Bernard — 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.”

A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND: It used to be diamonds, but these days it could be Spanx. Kate Winslet was wearing her Spanx High Falutin’ footless panty-hose shaper the night she nabbed two Golden Globes for best actress and best supporting actress. And it seems a good luck charm that works so well can’t be left behind. Representatives from the company have confirmed Winslet has requested a spread of shapers from their new Haute Contour collection to consider for the Academy Awards, as well. “You never know until they walk out on that red carpet,” a Spanx representative cautioned. “But we have a great relationship with Kate.” The shapewear company to the stars (Gwenyth Paltrow and Jessica Alba are fans too) has set up shop at the Bryant Park Hotel this week to preview the fall collections from its Spanx, Haute Contour by Spanx and Assets by Sara Blakely lines.

HE LEFT HIS HEART…: San Francisco is dear to the Maramotti family — it’s the first U.S. location of a Max Mara store, which debuted in 1988. On Friday, the company celebrated the relaunch of the 175 Post Street flagship after a remodel and doubling in size to 3,900 square feet. Fittingly, and in keeping with the Maramotti’s love of art, store walls in the bright, high-ceilinged space were decorated with pieces from photographer Paolo Simonazzi’s “Tra la Via Emilia e il West” retrospective. At first glance, the large color images appear as iconography from the American West — remote gas stations, rural diners and Harleys set against big skies and open landscapes — but they are actually of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. The trompe l’oeil is Simonazzi’s reflection on the region’s Americanization, including as a hotbed for Italian rock ’n’ roll. Similarly, 21 years ago, Max Mara Fashion Group chairman Luigi Maramotti drew comparisons between Italy and San Francisco, where Italians immigrated in the mid-1800s during the Gold Rush and where Italian is still spoken in North Beach, the city’s Little Italy. “Mr. Maramotti thought the Max Mara brand made sense in this market,” said U.S. marketing director Alisha Farmer.

RENZO JETS IN: Even amid New York’s fashion week frenzy, Diesel founder Renzo Rosso found time to make a West Coast cameo over the weekend. Rosso flew in from New York Friday evening to host his daughter Alessia’s 23rd birthday celebration at West Hollywood nightclub Guy’s, where about 90 guests, including Rosso’s son Stefano, reveled late into the evening, sipping Champagne and dancing to loud tunes spun by the club’s DJ. Alessia Rosso — who appeared to thoroughly enjoy the company of the evening’s hard-partying crowd — has lived in Los Angeles for about two years, and is studying film and TV production, an experience that may soon come in handy as her father said he plans to launch a media outlet under the Diesel brand in the future. “I’m glad she’s here, I love California because it’s got a different energy and is so incredible,” Renzo Rosso said. “The most important people are here, and you can meet them in a friendly way not possible in New York City.” Despite the California love, the elder Rosso didn’t linger in the Golden State, jetting back to New York the next evening for Diesel’s Black Gold show and the brand’s Fifth Avenue store opening today.

CROSS YOUR LEGS: The lines were long at the tents on Sunday night, but not just for the shows. Following the Miss Sixty show, only one out of about 20 Port-o-Johns was open for business. Attendants on scene said there was an issue with the water supply, the same issue many in line were themselves wrestling with. Eventually the bathrooms were shut down completely.

JAPAN BOUND: The fast-fashion stakes in Tokyo are rising. Forever 21 has secured a large property formerly housing a New Balance store right next to Hennes & Mauritz’s Harajuku flagship. The store will be the California-based brand’s first in Japan. The building is currently sporting a “Forever 21 Coming Soon” sign soliciting career opportunities.


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