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Shopping: Best Cashmere

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For the best-quality Italian cashmere in cutting-edge shapes and colors, head down to the tiny NoLIta digs of Paris-based sweater designer Lucien Pellat-Finet (226 Elizabeth Street; 343-7033). In the eighteen months since it opened, Pellat-Finet's 650-square-foot shop has attained a cultlike following, from Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Cruise to Diane von Furstenberg, Kenzo, and John Bartlett, who stock up on the bright, color-blocked knits. "We've loved Lucien since the beginning, when he sold the line out of his apartment in Paris," raves Barneys executive vice-president Judy Collinson. "The shapes are classic with a very sexy, modern fit. And his color -- who else would do an orange sweater with purple contrast? It looks like ice cream in the store." But you'll pay a pretty penny: from $400 for men's and women's tank tops up to $2,000 for beaded styles.

For chic, inexpensive sweaters in the most current shapes and colors (Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors look-alikes abounded last season), the fashion crowd likes the "Sutton Studio" private-label line at Bloomingdale's. Prices for the two-ply fashion styles range from $79 for a boat-neck sweater to $279 for a poncho. Prefer to spend on classics? In fall and winter, Banana Republic (stores throughout the city) stocks soft, figure-flattering basic styles for men and women in neutral colors. All are a deal: from $98 for a short-sleeve tee to $245 for a men's four-ply boat-neck sweater.


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