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Fashion Notes

Swords and Sandals? No, Songs and Armani


MILAN, Italy — Russell Crowe, the Oscar-nominated actor who fought off tigers in Ridley Scott's epic "Gladiator," fought off fans after performing with his Australian rock band Tofog (Thirty-Odd Foot of Grunts) at a charity fund-raiser hosted by fashion designer Giorgio Armani to kick off a rainy and freezing cold fashion week here.

Casually dressed in faded jeans and a white tee under a black unbuttoned shirt, Crowe, who has worn Armani to the Academy Awards, said he's a fan of the designer because "his clothes fit men, they're not for the boys. He makes clothes that are classic and for men with deep voices."

Onstage at the Rolling Stone club, the 36-year-old actor, who has been singing since 1980, announced to the throng of 2,000--full of local models, actors, soccer stars and MTV veejays--"This is the best-looking audience we've ever played before." For sure, the trendy and mostly 20-something crowd at the front of the stage was dripping in hip threads: lots of tight leather on svelte and buff bodies donning great haircuts and sunglasses at night.

For almost an hour, a tousled-haired Crowe, lead singer and guitarist, belted out songs in a benefit concert for the local branch of Sarah Ferguson's charity, Children in Crisis. During the show, Crowe shouted out to the Duchess of York, "We're gonna sing for Sarah," and then belted out the band's rendition of "Somebody Else's Princess."

Ferguson, chic in a beaded Armani top and skirt, said she was grateful to the designer and Crowe for helping to bring public awareness to the charity she founded in 1993 after visiting Poland, where she witnessed children in need of the basic necessities of life.

"I believe everyone has the right to dignity, especially children. And tonight we have two gladiators--Russell and Mr. Armani--helping to fight for the cause of kids," she said backstage, above the blare of Crowe's music.

Meanwhile, Armani, a shy, elegant man, maintained a low profile as he mingled with friends, including Miramax Films President Harvey Weinstein, in a VIP area. Weinstein, who flew in from Rome at Crowe's request, where he's filming "Gangs of New York" with Leonardo DiCaprio, returned there after the party for a night shoot.

Armani went back to work, preparing for his shows this Saturdayand Monday. Ferguson hopped a plane to London. Crowe, on the other hand, headed for a local disco, where--like a true rock 'n' roller--he partied till dawn.


Miguel Adrover brought his Middle Eastern-inspired 93-piece fall and winter collection, which he premiered in New York last month, to show at Gio Moretti, a chic shop along the trendy Via della Spiga strip--the Rodeo Drive of Milan.

Adrover, dressed in a floor-length, loose-fitting djellaba, a white scarf around his neck and a blue, two-button blazer, made the most of the evening, even though he was worried about his mother, Maria, who was back in his native Majorca, Spain.

"My mind is on her," he said, looking at his watch. "She is having surgery right now." He had come to Milan--his first visit--from Majorca, where he had been with his mother before her operation. He plans to spend some time with her before returning to New York.

The designer, who made a big splash just three seasons ago, talked about his collection on a personal level, explaining how he spent 25 days in Egypt to learn about its culture and women and to experience daily life there by living with a family who had no running water. When he returned to New York, he designed a collection "that is not about skin and sex" but, rather, "about the heart and soul of a woman."

He then returned to Egypt a second time with several garments he dipped into the Nile River, a baptismal of sorts, giving his craft a conscience, if you will. Adrover again demonstrated his talent for deconstruction. He turned a meat market's 200-year-old canopy into an exquisite floor-length coat, embroidered with scraps of fabric like a mosaic. He said the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has asked to have the one-of-a-kind coat for its archival collection.


London-based designer Paul Smith hosted a party at the opening of his pink-plastered Italian flagship boutique, a charming store filled with Smith's favorite things: toys, books, cuff links, antiques and plenty of his signature, colorful clothes.

Located across from Armani's huge--and hugely popular--store on via Manzoni, Smith's emporium is fun and funky, colorful and playful--a far cry from the many "seriously sterile stores looking like the same bloody place," Smith said. "Shopping should be a joyful experience, a place where one can play, a place with character, where one can hang out," he said, reaching for a rubber chicken sold in his shop.

But how will his quirky approach to retailing in Milan be viewed?

"Let me tell you," he said, "this morning there was this chic-looking lady staring into the store. 'Please come in,' I said to her, to which she responded: 'I've been in Milan all my life. I'm 92 years old, and this store makes me feel optimistic.' I couldn't ask for a better future here."

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