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FASHION / INSIDE OUT

Now, for Our Next Trick . . .

November 10, 1994|DEBRA GENDEL | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

It isn't easy to grab the limelight in the self-conscious, self-promotional world of fashion--unless you are startlingly beautiful or tremendously powerful. Being neither, we've decided to experiment with an unorthodox strategy we call "fame by humiliation."

The latest installment of our master plan occurred in New York last week at a party hosted by New York magazine at Barneys New York: One minute we were analyzing American fashion trends with a husky-voiced French stylist. The next, we were gazing at the floor, where our Adrienne Vittadini knit skirt had fallen into a crumpled heap around our ankles.

"Excuse me," we said casually. "My skirt has fallen off." We discreetly pulled it back up and, after a brief, humiliating moment, carried on.

Fortunately, most party-goers were too preoccupied with their own clothes to notice the deconstruction of someone else's. But those who did witness this triumph of gravity demanded an explanation. How could a skirt simply fall off? "With very careful planning," we said.

*

The Politics of Fashion: Never mind if it's nippy. You'd better not show up wearing a fur on Sunset Boulevard, where the anti-fur forces are broadcasting their messages loud and clear. The Friends of Animals stapled fur coats to its billboard. On the backs of the coats, a simple question: "Get the Message?" Just down the street, the Humane Society's anti-fur billboard takes the cute and fuzzy approach by showing the animals themselves.

Meanwhile, over on Rodeo Drive, Fendi--the Roman fashion house founded nearly 70 years ago with furs--just opened for business. Although it carries the Fendi signature handbags, ready-to-wear (designed by Karl Lagerfeld), fragrance and accessories, the store has already done well with its famous furs--selling five in the first two days of business.

"Furs are coming back very strongly and there's a big request for them," says Irwin Tauber, president of the Condotti Shops USA Inc., owner of five Fendi shops in the United States, including the Beverly Hills site. But the customers have been primarily Japanese. "There's no fur controversy in Japan," Tauber explains.

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It Pays to Have a Wife Who Works Out: What to do when you are confronted with large goody bags that weigh a ton? Hand them to your supermodel wife who's used to working out, or at least hefting the kids. That's what Rod Stewart did at the recent Carousel of Hope Ball when confronted with big Guess and Revlon gift bags. The Mrs., Rachel Hunter, obliged and they both laughed all the way to the car.

*

Fragrance Free: The University of Minnesota's School of Social Work has prohibited its 250 students from wearing perfumes, colognes and other scented products, reports the Associated Press. The ban is a response to a puzzling new affliction called multiple chemical sensitivity-environmental illness, in which even a whiff can cause temporary paralysis. "We're not the smell police," said Jean Quam, director of the school. "When people get educated about it, they still may think it's crazy but they also realize perfumes can physically make people sick."

But a perfume-industry representative sniffed at the ban. "I don't think that's fair," said Regina Kulik, director of public relations for Christian Dior Perfume. "Even furniture polish has a scent because people like it."

*

Straight Up: Speaking of fragrance, Rei Kawakubo, designer of Comme des Garcons, will make a rare appearance at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills today to launch her first fragrance. Kawakubo, writes Deyan Sudjic in "Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garcons" (Rizzoli, 1994), "works hard and finds the social aspects of the fashion world an unwelcome chore." But the iconoclastic designer is making an exception, with appearances here and in New York. Like Donna Karan and Sonia Rykiel, Kawakubo produced her perfume in-house rather than license it to a beauty company. The result is refreshingly unorthodox--from the whiskey flask-shaped bottle, which lies on its back, to the scent itself, which has no top note and so goes directly to the heart of the fragrance.

*

Support System: Good things do come in threes. Just ask David Dart. After winning California Designer of the Year and the Dallas Fashion Award, his company, Force One, has been acquired by Kellwood, a St. Louis-based apparel company.

While Dart retains full creative control, he gets to share the business headaches with someone else, he says. Not to mention the sweetest part of the deal: worldwide access to large-scale production sources through Melrose, a division of Kellwood in Chatsworth. "We'll be right up there with DKNY and Calvin Klein," Dart promises.

* Inside Out is published Thursdays.

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