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By Design | FASHION / SENSE OF STYLE

Indulging Her Khaki Beliefs

June 27, 1996|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

Fashion is fond of sweeping pronouncements, like the legendary Diana Vreeland's dictum "Pink is the navy blue of India" or "khakis are the new jeans."

Actually, that one has a ring to it, because in the same way that M&M's sometimes seem like the perfect breakfast food, ever since spring first sprung, I've been in the grip of a nearly constant craving for khakis. I have never tried on a jacket, blouse, vest or sweater in a Los Angeles store and not been told by a salesperson, "You could wear that with jeans." (My silent response is usually, "OK, but why would I want to?") Now, I find myself jumping to the khaki conclusion, wanting to wear khakis with every top in my closet.

But not just any khakis. The perfect pair: lean, pale, soft as chamois. At the beginning of my quest, I briefly pondered how many pairs of khakis anyone not employed as a waiter at Michael's actually needs, then concluded that need was beside the point. The details of new varieties of khakis entice--narrow legs, plain fronts, hip-hugging waists. The pleated ones I've had since before Bob Dole's hairline receded are only a good, albeit preppy, foundation. Surely there's a side-zipped, cigarette-legged chino in my future, as well as some tab-front low-riders. And there are more tempting classics available than ever, even if the pre-frayed numbers from J. Crew seem like cheaters.

Like any relationship, you get out of the pursuit of khakis what you put into it. Finding them takes research, dedicated experimentation. I tried on no fewer than five versions at Banana Republic. The winner was a plain-front men's style, priced at $58 and purposely bought one size too big so they slide down on the hips, perhaps low enough to expose my navel on a balmy day. Still to be checked out, the Gap, Old Navy, the Ralph Lauren Polo Store, and the A-Line Anne Klein and Calvin Klein khaki collections. Progress is slow. We interrupt this khaki hunt for a life.

*

Scents and Sensibility: Since Chanel introduces a new perfume only a few times a century, it aims to create a classic every time. A feminine scent packaged in a stark, streamlined bottle, Allure was launched earlier this year with the line, "The irresistible new fragrance from Chanel." Whether it truly is irresistible remains to be seen.

"It takes at least a year for a fragrance to really prove itself, " says Laurie Palma, vice president for fragrance marketing. "What we know so far about Allure is that women don't hate it. They don't smell it, wrinkle their noses and say, 'Ewww.' But women will buy a lot of things once. When they come and buy it again, or buy it for gifts, then you know you have a winner."

Instead of a signature Face of Allure, seven modern, young beauties from diverse ethnic backgrounds were captured by star photographer Herb Ritts for a marketing campaign estimated at $10 million. Allure has many faces, the reasoning went, why settle for one?

Or, a scent has no faces at all. Route du Tea is a tangy unisex cologne that Barneys Executive Vice President Bonnie Pressman discovered in a little tea shop in Paris. In the 10 years, the store has promoted Route du Tea only a few times in newspaper ads and store mailings. But the fragrance became an underground cult favorite, owing its popularity to word of mouth. (Naomi Campbell is a devotee.) "It's not about packaging and hype," Pressman says. "It's about content. It's like our little secret and people who discover it feel like it's their little secret. It's a spicy, tart scent, because I don't really think we're a sweet and flowery kind of store."

* Sense of Style appears Thursdays in Life & Style.

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