The A-to-Z Style Guide

A is for Art-Inspired

Fashion designers citing painterly inspiration is hardly new, but this season the references were particularly eclectic. Marc Jacobs named his Louis Vuitton collection "Girl with a Monogram Handbag," in tribute to Jan Vermeer's 17th-century canvases; Miuccia Prada pointed to forties pinups, Giambattista Valli to Le Corbusier. Etro fell for the graphic lines of Art Deco, and Proenza Schouler's free-flowing dresses recalled the shapes of Paul Poiret, in time for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition of the designer's work. Then, after The New Yorker ran an eight-page profile of Banksy, the mysterious British street artist, and Kate Moss graffitied shirts for Al Gore's Climate Project with fellow fashion icons such as Diane von Furstenberg and French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, Christian Louboutin introduced some 15 "tagged" pieces, including ballet flats, stilettos, ankle boots, handbags, and clutches. Each item is "bombed"—street art slang for "marked with ink"—by a 25-year-old Parisian graffiti artist named Nicolas Michel. christianlouboutin.fr

Anaconda

Kara Ross's name con- jures up images of coral Maltese crosses, tiger's-eye cuffs, and mammoth rock-crystal cocktail rings. The designer's five-year-old jewelry line moves briskly at Bergdorf Goodman. Luckily for those who have not yet had a chance to get their hands on one of her ebony link necklaces, Ross recently decided to launch a line of exotic-skin handbags. "I have been collecting vintage clutches for years," Ross says. "And the more I learned about exotic skins, the more I saw them like gemstones—organic and unique. Each piece of anaconda I come across has an entirely different set of markings." In keeping with the designer's background, all the pieces in the new collection are tastefully adorned with jewels: The clasp on the anaconda Kiss clutch (pictured above) is cut from smoky to-paz, while a lavender crocodile clutch fastens with rock crystal. The bags can currently be found at Brown's in London and Joyce Ma in Asia, as well as at Bergdorf's and Neiman Marcus. Soon enough, however, Ross will have a place to call her own, with plans for a New York by-appointment-only showroom. kararossny.com

Abbondanza!

It's Italian for "abundance" and theme of the latest art show at the Salvatore Ferragamo Gallery, curated by Blair Voltz Clarke and opening September in New York. At 655 Fifth Ave., 212-759-3822.

B

Bamboo

"Plant bamboo, save the world," says jeweler John Hardy. The Bali-based designer has made it his mission to show the world the wonders of the sustainable material, starting a bamboo-planting project on the island of Nusa Penida. Thankfully, he also recognizes the desire to wear sustainability on your sleeve, creating a limited-edition silver collection: For each large sterling bangle bought, 26 trees are planted. For the one-of-a-kind bamboo, coral, and citrine cuff pictured below, the number goes up to 130. 866-454-2739; johnhardy.com

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Bon Anniversaire!

The House

Dior

The History

In 1947 Christian Dior created an uproar with his New Look. Designer John Galliano, also celebrating a decade milestone at chez Dior, continues the tradition of shock and awe.

The Celebration

A decadent couture show and after-party in July at the Orangerie in Versailles. An exhibition at the museum in Monsieur Dior's hometown of Granville runs through September 24.

The Souvenir

The limited-edition anniversary Samouri bag (above, $2,700) and two books: Dior by Dior (Victoria and Albert Museum, $16) and Christian Dior (Assouline, $125).

The House

Neiman Marcus

The History

Selling the glamour of Paris and New York to Dallas was the simple but brilliant idea of Herbert Marcus Sr., his sister Carrie Marcus Neiman, and her husband, A. L. Neiman, in 1907.

The Celebration

A gala for 1,400 at the downtown Dallas store. On September 10, the actual anniversary, every store will hand out the famed NM chocolate-chip cookie (recipe included).

The Souvenir

Exclusive products aplenty: Brioni's mink dinner jacket, $25,000; Lalique's Imperial Serpent crystal vase, $50,000; Bobbi Brown's hand-carved ebony makeup set, $650.

The House

Ralph Lauren

The History

In 1967 Ralph Lauren, with a $50,000 loan, took a few wide ties and spun them into an $11 billion–a–year empire.

The Celebration

Lauren marked the occasion by opening two stores in Moscow and treating 200 guests to a lavish Great Gatsby–feeling dinner at the ambassador's residence in the Russian capital.

The Souvenir

Ralph Lauren by Ralph Lauren (Rizzoli, $135) details the designer's life and work. Serious fans can go for the deluxe edition in an alligator-pressed leather slipcase ($400).

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C

Copyright Bill

Designer Tory Burch was walking down the street when she spotted it. "A woman was wearing a direct knockoff of my ballet flat," says Burch. This has become a growing problem for the fashion industry—people stealing looks off the runway or the red carpet and producing them as mass-market merchandise. For the moment, designers are largely powerless against the trend, though some have tried to fight back. (Burch is in court over the fake flat.) While other countries have legal protection for fashion designs, the United States does not. Soon, however, those in the business hope to get the law on their side. A piece of legislation is pending in Congress that would give designers copyright protection for three years (starting when an item is first registered). The bill, sponsored by Congressmen Bob Goodlatte from Virginia and Bill Delahunt from Massachusetts, is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

"Right now there's no protection at all," says Diane von Furstenberg. "Laws are meant to intimidate people. That's what we need."

To be sure, what constitutes a copyright violation in fashion is not clear-cut. Since designers draw on many sources for ideas, there's a considerable gray area as to where obeisance ends and stealing begins. "Our legislation doesn't stop inspiration," says Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. "When it's too literal," says Burch, "that's when it becomes a clear problem."

D

Dream Weaver

While on vacation in Peru four years ago, Los Angeles–based designer Gregory Parkinson was inspired by the country's centuries-old knitting traditions. Now the scarves and cardigans in his eponymous collection are created exclusively by artisan Maria Rojas of Aconsur, a Peruvian women's collective formed to preserve native techniques. Parkinson's Rugby design (left) was inspired by the oversize football scarves of his British youth, but it's made in the thickly woven style typical of the South American nation. gregoryparkinson.com

E

Extreme Tailor

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Preston Wilson first walked into Domenico Vacca's tailor shop in Montreal with his big-league father, Mookie. The simply named Giovanni Clothes, founded by Vacca's father, Giovanni, in 1965, never set out to cater to athletes. But Montreal Expos players such as Rusty Staub and Gary Carter started wandering in and spreading the word. In the past year alone, Vacca produced about 1,000 suits for 500 athletes. Using almost exclusively Australian-raised, Italian-made wools from labels like Zegna and Marzotto, the tailor cuts a fitted look: A tapered cut with two-button jackets nipped at the waist; straight-leg pants. French cuffs on shirts. The look has not always been an easy sell to athletes who even recently were still choosing cartoony big-cut styles. "Because these are custom-made suits," Vacca says, "it's not a matter of my tastes alone." And in the case of this particular clientele, the process also entails suiting up guys with, frankly, pretty unusual bodies—men such as the former hockey player and now NBC broadcaster Ray Ferraro, who is five feet ten inches tall and nearly 200 pounds. Vacca regularly adapts styles for broad shoulders and muscular backs. He maintains a clean line while adding slightly fuller shoulders, bigger armholes, and somewhat larger pant bottoms for the Bigfoots of the big leagues. Custom suit, $900–$3,500; 514-274-2427; giovanniclothes.com

Essential Viewing

If a chandelier earring craze once again sweeps the fashion world, look to Max Ophüls. His 1953 film The Earrings of Madame de… played for four weeks last spring at New York's Film Forum to packed houses. The plot centers on a pair of dangling diamond earrings that are, to heighten the drama, only glimpsed in the very first and last scenes. "Is there any reason to miss The Earrings of Madame de…?" asked New Yorker critic Anthony Lane. "The only suitable excuse, aside from death, would be to have mislaid a pair of earrings." DVD, $35; amazon.com

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F

Four Seasons

Seasons change. It's inev- itable. But over the past two years the clothes that fill the gaps between the major spring and fall collections are receiving more attention. They go by the names resort, holiday, pre-fall, and pre-spring. A quick breakdown: Pre-spring pieces arrive in early February to whet appetites for spring clothes, which begin appear-ing on racks in March. That leads to pre-fall in May, before fall/winter pieces arrive in August. And to cover the dual winter activities of parties and vacations are the holiday and resort lines, available from October or November.

G

Gray

Bulletin: In search of the new black? Apparently it's gray. Shades of charcoal, smoke, and steel dominated the fall runways.

H

Houston

Hamilton Custom Shirtmaker has been keeping the men of Texas in button-downs since 1883, and now the fourth generation is taking over. Kelly Hamilton, 32, worked for the Houston Ballet and her 29-year-old brother, David, was an investment banker before both returned to the family business in 2005. Each piece of fabric—from bright checks to classic stripes—is hand-cut using a blade instead of scissors so that patterns line up precisely. Every shirt is tailored to accommodate body type and personal style, say, the left cuff is made a bit larger to show off a Cartier Roadster. Custom fitting is done at the atelier in Houston. A made-to-measure service is offered through Barneys, Mitchells in Westport, Connecticut, and Mr. Ooley's in Oklahoma City. From $300; 713-264-8800

Han Feng Returns

More than a few cultish Han Feng fans were saddened when her gallerylike New York shop closed two years ago. But after designing costumes for Anthony Minghella's Madama Butterfly, the Chinese-born designer is back with a line of kimono-inspired silk dresses, bold jewelry, and, yes, her trademark accordion-pleated silk scarves. From $95 for scarves to $3,000 for jewelry; 877-634-6264; neimanmarcus.com.

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein, fashionista? It was a surprise to many when the film executive bought the erstwhile glamorous brand Halston. But considering Weinstein's astute antenna and recent stylish affiliations (namely his role as executive producer on the reality show Project Runway and his involvement with girlfriend Georgina Chapman, designer at Marchesa), the surprise quickly grew into hopeful anticipation. Would Weinstein—with Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon act- ing as creative advisor—be able to restore the house to its glory days of Bianca Jag- ger and Studio 54? "Harvey always makes intelligent moves," says luxury consultant Robert Burke. "There's only a handful of American fashion companies that have huge brand recognition. Halston is one of them."

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I

Investments

Masters of the universe suddenly seem eager to raid the world of fashion. Witness the row of seats reserved for Financo, a New York investment firm, at the recent Oscar de la Renta and J. Mendel shows in Manhattan. In March the Weinstein Company acquired Halston (see "Harvey Weinstein") in partnership with Hilco Consumer Capital, a private equity firm. The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation was sold to Apax Partners. Last year Prada agreed to sell Jil Sander to the London-based Change Capital Partners. And in May the Permira fund bought 40 percent of Valentino.

The trend worries experts. "The financial world looks for a return on their investment," says Peter Arnold, president of Cynthia Rowley and former executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. "But fashion is a different animal. It's a sexy investment, but do these guys really understand the business?" At least one might: Jeffry M. Aronsson. Trained as a corporate lawyer and formerly chief executive of Donna Karan International, Marc Jacobs International, and Oscar de la Renta, Aronsson brought an unusual combination of skills to a fund he started, called Aronsson Group. "We do not have to wait for a middleman to source a deal," Aronsson explains. "My background is essential." Still, Arnold advises caution to designers looking for a deal. "Don't do a deal just for the money," he says. "With that investment does come an expectation of a return that may be hard to generate."

J

Jewelry

The New It Bag is a Bracelet

Bottega Veneta

There were always woven leather bracelets, but now Bottega Veneta is offering its signature pattern in diamonds or gold. Sfera earrings, $5,100; 877-362-1715

Louis Vuitton

From the house that brought us bags printed with Murakami cherries and Stephen Sprouse graffiti comes a bracelet crafted using royal-blue rooster feathers. $2,300; 866-884-8866

YSL

The Yves Saint Laurent Muse bag continues to be coveted, but the rings of the Arty jewelry collection, like this tin and aventurine style, are fast becoming classics. $150; 212-980-2970

Hermes

Cult handbag designer Pierre Hardy is behind Hermès's discreetly chic jewelry. This diamond and white-gold cuff was inspired by the architecture of the Eiffel Tower. $147,200; 800-441-4488

Oscar de la Renta

Black Lucite earrings accented a fuchsia dress for fall. These turquoise Pom-Poms were paired with a ruffled orange ball gown for the designer's Resort show. $1,350; 305-868-7986

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K

Kerouac

First exhibited in the stylish windows of Colette this summer in Paris, Hogan's collection inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road is now available Stateside. The six-piece line features a buttery calf-leather travel bag, distressed-leather high-top sneakers, and a tobacco-colored nubuck backpack. The Kerouac bomber jacket is a sophisticated take on the writer's self-described "ragged, beatific" style—it even includes pockets for paperbacks. From $295 to $1,590. At 134 Spring St., New York; 888-604-6426.

L

Lemarie

Feathers were leopard- printed at Dolce & Gabbana and peeking out from under hems at Louis Vuitton. So are scads of designers inexpli- cably plume-obsessed? Not quite. The downy trail of this particular craze leads directly to Paris and to the door of French feather atelier Lemarié. Founded in 1880, the workshop (Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga were clients) was family-run until Andre Le-marié retired in 2002. With YSL's final couture show marking the end of an haute era, Chanel bought Lemarié, followed by the purchase of other such artisanal work-shops as Lesage and Massaro. "People say, 'Oh, there is a feather trend,' but we create that," explains Eric Charles-Donatien, creative director of Lemarié. "Believe me, if we stop showing them new samples, suddenly—no trend."

Lily et Cie

Beverly Hills boutique Lily et Cie is legendary for its collection of vintage haute couture and for the historical knowledge and expertise of its owner, Rita Watnick. After decades of research to source artisans who could match the quality of dressmaking gone by, Watnick has introduced a line of her own. There are hints of old Hollywood glamour in the pieces—witness the hot-pink cocktail frock trimmed in feathers (right) applied by staff trained at James Galanos; it comes with a matching plume-lined evening coat. 310-724-5757; lilyetcie.com

M

Made-to-Measure

The shift toward tailored pieces for men shows no sign of letting up, and more designers are offering made-to- measure services right in their boutiques. Giorgio Armani has its Fatto A Mano Su Misura service. Fabrics include a Super 200 wool, said to be finer than cashmere (suits, from $4,325; armani.com). At Ralph Lauren a stash of exclusive fabrics is kept on hand for Purple Label made-to-measure suiting (from $3,900; 888-475-7674). Versace offers custom suits (from $3,500; 212-317-0224), and Gucci made-to-measure offers five suit styles in a variety of fabrics through eight of its U.S. stores (prices upon request; 800-234-8224). And at Hermès's new boutique on Wall Street, a private sa- lon was created especially for sur mesure clients (suits, from $4,000; 212-785-3030).

N

Natori Couture

Does the floor-length black silk kimono qualify as lingerie or eveningwear? "I don't tell a woman what to wear when," says designer Josie Cruz Natori, who introduced Josie Natori Couture, a line of richly embroidered separates and shawls, this year. Natori, the mind behind a lingerie empire, says the Couture pieces are a natural extension of the silk undergarments that have made her famous. "Each piece has glamour," explains Natori, modeling an unstructured cashmere coat accented with an obi-inspired sash, "but there is an ease about them as well." And for those who dream about going out in their pj's, Natori designed flowing pajama-style hostess pants paired with a simply shaped, heavily appliquéd tunic. natori.com

Nicolas Caito

Designers such as Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez (of Proenza Schouler), Thakoon Panichgul, and Peter Som have turned to a French expat to help them realize their visions of new Ameri-can couture. The patternmaker Nicolas Caito set up his atelier in lower Manhattan two years ago and quickly garnered an impressive clientele. Similar to architects, fashion designers work from sketches. Patternmakers are their engineers, transforming intricate drawings into three-dimensional garments. The process begins with the patternmaker piecing together a patchwork of fabrics onto a dress form. These are then worked into a muslin sample that, once perfected, becomes a blueprint for the production of the garment. It's painstaking work, requiring an eye for precision and an understanding of the properties and possibilities of every swatch of material. Trained in Lanvin's atelier in Paris, Caito later managed the sample room at Rochas under Olivier Theyskens. "In Paris," says the 38-year-old Caito, "the designer is like a god. And your goal is to please his every whim and to create a garment as close to the sketch as possible." Now Caito manages to do just that for his New York clients. This season his work was seen in the intricate zigzag pleats of Proenza Schouler's slinky chiffon dresses and Thakoon's billowing cocoon skirts.

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O

Olga Berluti

Parisian bootmaker Olga Berluti consulted with tattoo artists to develop a process for etching leather with indelible ink. Tatouage clients can choose their insignia—from among dragons, eagles, tigers, and more—before each pair is custom made. 212-439-6400

Over-The-Top Menswear

Loro Piana

Four-ply baby cashmere bomber lined in honey- colored mink. $12,000 (also in vicuña); 212-980-7960

Louis Vuitton

Mini Grimaud crocodile bag, one of only ten in the world. $34,500; 866-884-8866

John Lobb

Gray sueded crocodile Lopez loafer. By special order, 212-888-9797

Ermenegildo Zegna

Brown alligator jacket lined in—what else?—cashmere. $55,000; 212-421-4488

P

Pitti Uomo

At this season's men's fashion fair in Florence, where some of the most revered Italian luxury brands present their latest collections, the key word was lightness. At Canali, unconstructed cream linen suits were paired with soft pastel knits. Corneliani showed off its latest ID jacket (with signature removable vest) in sand-colored microsuede. Kiton, known for innovative fabrics, did blazers in tropical-weight cashmere and vicuña. Borrelli showed skinny ties with shirts treated for a deliberately wrinkled look. Borsalino, the venerable milliner, celebrated its 150th anniversary with a Panama hat made from the finest Montecristo straw and finished with a crocodile band. Color was also a focus: Brunello Cucinelli added soft yellows and oranges to its signature gray and beige cashmere palette, and Ballantyne, famous for patterned cashmere, showed a collection that was entirely solid, plus a new line of bright swimsuits, cashmere scarves, and leather bags. Isaia stayed close to its Neapolitan roots with a collection that was sparked by the sea—red-and-white-striped sweaters that recalled Fassbinder's sailor film, Querelle. Technology even made an appearance. Incotex, which only designs trousers, premièred "ice gabardine," a lightweight Italian cotton that keeps its shape. At Ermenegildo Zegna the big news was a solar jacket with a panel built into the collar that can be used to charge iPods, cell phones, and digital cameras.

Q

Q+A

We asked four fashion authorities, all creators of stores that have cult followings and all with a forward-thinking, almost intellectual approach to style, for their insights into the fall collections. Who are the designers we'll be talking about—and wearing—in five years? What items should already be in our closets, and who designs the world's best ballerina flat? Here, the highly influential opinions of Ikram Goldman, owner of Chicago's Ikram; Maria Luisa Poumaillou, whose five-shop mini empire extends from Paris to Hong Kong; Jeffrey Kalinsky, who runs Jeffrey outposts in both New York and Atlanta; and Beth Buccini, co-owner of Kirna Zabête in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood.

Departures: what were the highlights of the men's and women's fall 2007 collections?

Ikram Goldman: Azzedine Alaïa's cropped jackets in washed felted wool—especially the one with a pleated back, as well as those with whipstitching detail along the seams—and matching high-waisted skirts. Lanvin trenches. And Bottega Veneta: the dresses! Fitted on top, a little A-line on the bottom. Every girl will want one.

Maria Luisa Poumaillou: Martin Margiela's fluorescent knits and samurai jackets; sweaters embroidered with feathers by Nina Ricci; Rick Owens's balloon-shaped shearling jackets. And everything Balenciaga.

Jeffrey Kalinsky: Thom Browne. Watching the show, I thought, We'll be wearing his clothes years from now and wondering, Why didn't I buy two more? Hedi Slimane's last collection for Dior Homme was also a mo-ment. Anybody who's in love with Hedi's work as much as I am was really paying attention. As for shoes, I'm mad about Church's. And we have a Bottega Veneta wallaby style lined in shearling that comes in desert suede. They are a must.

Beth Buccini: Balenciaga's colored blazers with a hint of reggae here, a fur collar there. And Giambattista Valli's belted skirts with the tucked-in knits were beautiful. We also bought his very graphic black, yellow, and white–printed trenchcoat.

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D: What fall pieces already have a wait list?

IG: People have been clamoring for the Rick Owens coats and jackets; most of them are already spoken for. And everybody wants an Alaïa bag and shoes. He does the most perfect flat.>

MLP: Specific pieces from the Balenciaga collection already have waiting lists: velvet schoolboy jackets, "jodhpurs" with skinny legs, and the chèche, Nicolas Ghesquière's take on the Palestinian scarf, embroidered with coins.

JK: Runway shoes from Lanvin, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Prada. We're also having a real Oscar [de la Renta] moment, as we have been for the last two years. Clients go online and they want, say, look 22 from the Oscar show. And Chanel, too: Bags, shoes, clothes—we get them in one day, they're gone the next.

BB: Lanvin flats. People are still freaking out over those. The waiting list is massive.

D: What is this year's Prada turban—That is, the item you thought no one would buy but instead everyone is crazy for?

IG: We have Alaïa shoes in the store that people are buying to use as bookends. They have a wooden platform heel—with tie-dyed snakeskin for the body—and an ankle strap; the heel is set in a metal piece. This year it's the Lanvin pink patent-leather bootie. Everyone wants it.

MLP: Without question, the Balenciaga chèche.

D: Who is the Oscar de la Renta or Alber Elbaz of the future?

IG: My two new discoveries are both out of London: Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders. Christopher Kane's work is young and edgy. Jonathan Saunders is much more couture-oriented; he makes beautiful gowns.

MLP: Christopher Kane. Also from London are Marios Schwab, Richard Nicoll, and Charles Anastase, who is French but now based there, with his young, poetic, and fragile dolls straight from a 19th- century boarding school.

JK: For men, Adam Kimmel. I would call his style discreet luxury: knitwear and blazers from the finest cashmere. He makes clothes for a guy who loves great clothes but doesn't want anyone to know who he's wearing. For women, it's L'Wren Scott. She did the most perfectly feminine fitted dresses. No one else has anything quite like it. You would think any designer could make fabulous dresses, but I shop Paris, Milan, and New York for eight months of the year and you don't find dresses like hers. She added cashmere sweaters to the line for fall.

BB: Angel Chang works with heat- and light-sensitive fabrics, so that a certain print will start to fade the longer you're in the sun. When you go back inside, it appears again. She did an incredible hot-pink supersexy minidress, and she's doing an amazing silver metallic hoodie that has a pocket and controls for your iPod.

R

Required Reading

Fall brings a new crop of stylish books: ABC of Men's Fashion (Abrams, $20), by Sir Hardy Amies, compiles the wisdom and wit of the late dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth. Pierre & Gilles, Double Je, 1976–2007 (Taschen, $50) documents the duo's camp-infused portraits. Cartier 1899–1949: The Journey of a Style (Skira, $65) catalogues some 230 eye-popping neoclassical bijoux and objets. Costume Jewelry for Haute Couture (Vendome Press, $75) illustrates brilliant gems created by houses such as Chanel and Courrèges. Lanvin (Rizzoli, $85) visually chronicles the history of Paris's oldest surviving couture house. Swiss photographer Guido Mocafico's Movement (Steidl, $85) focuses on the glorious minutiae of watch mechanics. Hutton Wilkinson pays homage to his former mentor's lavish interiors and baubles in Tony Duquette (Abrams, $75). And American Fashion (Assouline, $50) offers a stylish look at the history of clothing design in our United States.

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S

Secret Source

After lunch at La Grenouille, an exceedingly dapper British hotelier insisted we join him to pick up a new suit. He stopped having anything custom-tailored, he told us, ever since he had tried on a style from a recent discovery and found that the fit was perfect, the fabric durable. The place? H&M.

T

Thom Browne

A great designer sticks steadfastly to his vision and waits for the world to adjust. That's the case with Thom Browne, whose shrunken, short-panted suit is currently the ne plus ultra of stylish menswear. Now the designer is expanding his reach with two new collaborations: a men's and women's line for Brooks Brothers called Black Fleece and a small selection of men's diamond jewelry for Harry Winston. The cuff links, tie bars, and timepieces he created go under the name Harry Winston Men by Thom Browne. "There are details," says Browne, "that only the owner of the piece knows about, like diamonds on the bar of the cuff link. There's something so beautifully sophisticated about that." Does all this new territory indicate a Browne empire in the making? On that subject, he plays it cool. "I love just designing interesting, beautiful new things," he says. "What that entails for the future, I don't really know." 800-988-4110

Tom Ford: Most Wanted

There's nothing on the outside of a Tom Ford store that suggests the pleasures within. Dark gray curtains cover the windows and it doesn't open until 11 a.m. on a block where almost every other store opens at 10. A crocodile desk cast in bronze greets you at the door. And still we lusted after the lizard eyeglass case, horn-tipped cane, light blue tuxedo shirt with white collar, subtly checked silk evening scarves, and the promise of a Tom Ford custom suit all our own. Ford recently announced plans to open 100 stores over the next ten years, and we must say there is no one better at making us want more.

U

Under the Radar

Hushed, discreet luxury is the essence of the Swiss label Akris. But for the past few seasons the house has been upping its fashion quotient. "I'm fascinated by the connection between the traditional ethic of haute couture and the spirit of today," says designer Albert Kriemler, a third-generation scion of the company. With its tactile mix of goat fur floating on tulle, 3-D geometric knits, and a jacket of crushed aluminum encased in silk georgette—all in chic silhouettes that punctuate lean cuts with bold volume—the fall collection is no exception. "Akris is a bit of a club," says Bergdorf Goodman senior vice president and women's fashion director Linda Fargo. "Once you are in, you're with it for life."

V

Valentino

Will he or won't he? That is, will Mr. Valentino Garavani, at the age of 75, make this—his 45th—his final year of designing clothes for ultraelegant women (and men)? By the time this magazine is in print, the shimmering dust will have settled from the house's three-day Roman extravaganza in early July—a couture show with an audience of more than 1,000 followed by a black-tie dinner and a retrospective exhibition at the Richard Meier–designed Ara Pacis Museum. The timing of the celebration (in the middle of couture week in Paris, where Valentino normally shows) required convincing both the French and Italian chambers of fashion to shift their schedules—a feat so Herculean it seemed to validate rumors of a grand adieu. The end-of-an-era clues kept adding up. There was the intense emotion (tears and standing ovations) following his spring ready-to-wear show. And then there was the trib-ute book being published by Taschen and written by Vanity Fair's Matt Tyrnauer, who was also finishing up a documentary film on the designer. And of course there was the nonstop speculation by those in the know regarding who might fill his hand-cobbled shoes.

V&A

"The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and Lon-don 1947–1957," opening at London's Victoria and Albert Museum September 22, includes groundbreaking creations by Paris-based couturiers Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, and Cristobal Balenciaga, along with Britain's Sir Norman Hartnell and Sir Hardy Amies. 44-207/942-2000; vam.ac.uk

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W

Why I Wear What I Wear

As the major domo be-hind Kiton's Manhattan boutique, Luigi Martini dresses almost exclusively in the Italian label. But the details are what make all the difference.

Walking Tall

"I'm a walking billboard for Kiton. I dress in the Neapolitan style with a narrow, short pant leg that shows my shoes. I prefer a two-inch cuff, slightly larger than what I recommend to clients, but since I'm tall it gives a nice balance." Kiton, 212-813-0272

Casual Elegance

"Sneakers with my suit has become a bit of a trademark. My favorites are Pumas by designer Mihara Yasuhiro. I also go with a ribbon belt. After work I unbutton my blazer and suddenly feel relaxed. In school my tie had to be perfect. Now I add flair with a Windsor knot and by keeping the back longer than the front." Pumas, $130–$200; 212-826-8900

Simple Standards

"My pocket square is always white linen and my socks are navy blue—they go with everything. We always keep white orchids in the Kiton store; I use one as a boutonniere."

Wrist Service

"I must own thirty-five watches. I'm wearing a Rolex, but it's a composite: a ten-year-old body with a new face." Aaron Faber Gallery, 666 Fifth Ave., New York; 212-586-8411; aaronfaber.com

X

Marks the Spot

Stylish types like to congregate. And lately it seems they prefer their gathering spots to come with a familiar face.

When Page Six reported that André Balazs was spooking around New York's infamous Chelsea Hotel, rumore swirled of a Chateau Marmont East. And why wouldn't they? This was the year of expanding empires. Studio 54, Hudson, and Mondrian hotel founder Ian Schrager added to his with the Gramercy Park Hotel, whose recently opened rooftop garden might be the hardest door to break in New York. It's rivaled only by the one at the Waverly Inn, acquired by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (at presstime still the only dinner reservation that really mattered). "Nightclub queen" Amy Sacco opened a branch of her clubby lounge at the St. Martins Lane hotel, Bungalow 8 London. Her former Bungalow 8 doorman, Armin Amiri, defected to start his own principality called Socialista in Manhattan's West Village. And with the retro lounge Beatrice Inn still going strong, Matt Abramcyk annexed 450 square feet in New York's TriBeCa neighborhood and called it Smith and Mills. SoHo House brought lengendary Hollywood restaurant Mortons, with plans to open SoHo House in West Hollywood, perhaps in time for the 2008 Oscars. Soho House founder Nick Jones also laid claim to space in London's east End to build Shoreditch House club, a members-only establishment

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Yves Klen

Fifty years ago French artist Yves Klein, with the help of a chemist, created and patented his own shade of blue. He filled whole canvases with the color, applied it to sponges and balloons, had nude models bathe in it and used their paint-covered bodies as "brushes." IKB (International Klein Blue), as he called it, was for him the material incarnation of the invisible and intangible; his canvases, he felt, offered a "window" onto infinity. A half century later a different kind of artist is again immersing women in IKB. Designers from John Galliano to Nicolas Ghesquière to Roberto Cavalli used the deep azure in their fall collections. Proenza Schouler presented vivid blue heels and at Marc Jacobs a few models' hair had even been dyed the intense shade. At Donna Karan an asymmetrical one-sleeve dress engulfs its wearer in Klein's singular color.

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Zagliani

The secret is silicone. Zagliani, a dusty, family-owned leather-goods company based in Milan, got an injection of modernity when it was bought by Mauro Orietti-Carella six years ago. Trained as a dermatologist, Orietti-Carella wondered how Zagliani would stand out in an increasingly crowded luxury market. Then it came to him: "We should treat skins—our specialty—as we treat skin." The material he had been trained to use to smooth wrinkles in medical school had a future in handbags. Orietti-Carella injects silicone (the kind that was used for breast implants, not the face) into Zagliani's exotic-skin duffels, totes, clutches, and bags, softening them and giving them a slouchier look and a glossier sheen. At Janet Brown in New York, clients are already placing orders for the "Botox bags." From $800; 516-883-2670