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Is Paris Big Enough for the Both of Them?


MILAN, Italy — In this day of luxury fashion mega-mergers, it's getting hard to keep the national boundaries straight, but this week, a conflict erupted between Italian and French fashion factions.

On Tuesday, the day of the Gucci show here, a story in the International Herald Tribune reported growing tensions between the Italian house of Gucci and the French house of Yves Saint Laurent, which Gucci purchased last year. What you need to know is that the head designer for Gucci is Tom Ford, who also designs the YSL ready-to-wear collection, Rive Gauche.

Got that?

It seems that Saint Laurent and his muse and friend, Loulou de la Falaise, have just opened a Paris boutique offering limited editions of classic YSL styles. Ordinarily, that should be happy fashion news, right?

Trouble is, the boutique is just a few doors down from the Rue du Faubourg-Ste.-Honore store that Ford is remodeling to house his new YSL collection.

"I was shocked and surprised to read that," Ford said the other day, at the news conference he traditionally holds before his Gucci show. "As far as I knew, I had a great relationship with Yves and Pierre." (Pierre is Pierre Berge, YSL's longtime business partner. Saint Laurent and Berge still control YSL's couture division.)

According to the Herald Tribune, Saint Laurent has told friends he is offended that Ford has publicly criticized the cut of his jackets. Further, Berge also complained to the newspaper that the YSL collection is now being manufactured in Italy "and not in France."

Ford disputed that. He said only some knits and leathers are made in Italy. Gucci, he said, "bought the French factories [where YSL is made] so we could have control over quality."

Despite the flap, Ford said he isn't concerned about Gucci and Rive Gauche sharing one designer.

"Gucci is day, and sporty," he said, "and YSL is night."

He added that the process of starting a new collection while designing another not only energized him, but also helped him clarify the differences between Gucci and YSL.

Ford's debut as designer for YSL's Rive Gauche is slated to take place at a show Oct. 13 in Paris.

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