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Top Firms, Top L.A. Customers : Trade Exhibit Features France's Finest

June 17, 1988|ROSE-MARIE TURK | Times Staff Writer

The only hitch at the opening of Les Journees du Prestige recently was the champagne.

The 600 or so guests attending the French trade exhibit at the Beverly Hills Hotel just couldn't get enough of the Louis Roederer bubbly.

When some of the best legs in town weren't pursuing waiters, they were turning heads at the museum-like booths of 25 elite firms. Among the companies represented: Roederer, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Ungaro, Claude Montana, Maud Frizon, Guerlain, Noel, Christofle, Lalique, Van Cleef & Arpels.

Not for Everyone

It obviously wasn't a show for everyone. Opening-night invitations went to only the top 20 customers of each exhibitor. For the next three days of the exhibit, the list was expanded to include the top 700 clients. Behind the numbers and the concept is 24-year-old Nicholas Orlowski, a business student who heads his own marketing company in Paris.

Les Journees du Prestige (the Prestigious Days) came to Los Angeles via Paris, Geneva, London, Milan and New York. "It takes place in each city's most exclusive hotel," said Orlowski, who indicated he's pleased with his creation. He measured success in more numbers: Six months after the Geneva show, four exhibitors opened stores there. And after the recent New York event, at least one exhibitor decided to set up shop in Manhattan.

"We want the aspect of a cultural event. We want people to have a fine time, drink the champagne and see something lovely. But underneath, it's a successful marketing activity," Orlowski explained.

As far as he knows, "It's the only time in the world that this has happened. Presidents and general managers of companies such as Dior and Yves Saint Laurent get hundreds of proposals every day and they refuse them--even if they are free." His project isn't free: "I never do anything that isn't good for my company. I'm not the Red Cross."

Why did the venerable French firms say yes to the chunky, cheerful entrepreneur? At least two of them, Yves Saint Laurent and Van Cleef & Arpels, have been "customers for other events." And all 25 succumbed to the honor of being chosen by Orlowski as the most prestigious company in their field: "They're very happy to be alone there," he said.

Philippe Model was one of the chosen few who came to Los Angeles for the opening. He hadn't had time to dress for the occasion and was in working clothes: black-and-white Converse hightops, rumpled jeans and an equally rumpled plaid shirt with a few work-related straight pins stuck in the collar.

The Rage of Paris

Model is described in the show's sleek catalogue as the rage of Paris and the man responsible for a large part of Paris haute couture hats. Surrounded by his extravagant creations, including hats, shoes and a perfume that will be introduced later this year, he pointed to the special pieces. There are two shoe styles purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One is a buttery-brown suede pump that has both a rhinestone heel shaped like a lightning bolt and a little rhinestone tail of a horse above the back seam.

"It's a whimsical way to be classic," he said of the shoe, which will sell for $500 at Neiman-Marcus. His hats, from $250 to $500, are at Neiman-Marcus now.

He has been known to wear his hats. "I do them all on my own head. They always suit me. I have a fun head," he insisted, "even with a beard. It's the eyes and lips that are important with a hat."

As for Daniel Tribouillard, president of Leonard (known for bold floral designs on ready-to-wear, linens, luggage and porcelain), his trip to Beverly Hills had an unexpected side: "I'm surprised to see that California ladies don't want to be tan anymore. I will have to change my colors now for all the pale women."

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