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Fashion Week Edition

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Puff Piece
Where was André Leon Talley's famed pomp and flash at last week's runway shows? Positioned in the front row, the Vogue editor-at-large had the perfect opportunity to showcase his customary haute couture splendor: pinstriped suits, wide-brimmed hats, walking sticks. Instead, Talley wore subdued sportswear from Puff Daddy's Sean John label -- a denim ensemble at Michael Kors, a T-shirt with the signature logo at Catherine -- looking more Rochester Big & Tall than larger-than-life. Was the flamboyant fashion sage indicating a new dressing-down trend? (Bloomingdale's fashion director, Kal Ruttenstein, was also spotted in Sean John T-shirts throughout the week.) "As an African-American man, I am proud to wear his clothes," Talley explains -- before revealing an even more compelling reason: "Not only are they comfortable, but I get the most compliments from the young ladies at Vogue, who think I look sexy and trim in them."

The (Eighties) Hit Parade
Seventh Avenue designers may be watching too many hours of VH1's Where Are They Now: Last week's runway shows featured enough one-hit wonders to fill a John Hughes soundtrack. With the exceptions of the live performances by Bush at Tommy Hilfiger's Madison Square Garden show and Les Rhythms Digitales at the Versus spectacle at Roseland, most designers featured lost music from the eighties. Jill Stuart played tracks from Yaz's You and Me Both, the ideal complement to her retro denim-and-rhinestone designs. Cynthia Rowley cued up Berlin's quasi-pornographic "Sex (I'm a . . .)," and Matt Nye blasted Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy." Even Daryl K, who played a soundtrack of thunderstorms and chirping birds during her show, piped in a simultaneous blast from the past: Sweetback, the backup band for eighties icon Sade.

The Wholesale Club
Even as they studied the au courant spring looks floating down last week's runways, fashion's younger forecasters were squeezing one more wearing out of last season's animal-print bags and dark denim jackets. The recycled look may have been due to the early arrival of Fashion Week (now that American collections are being shown before the European ones). Or, as one editor explains, it was simply a matter of penny-pinching: "Sample sales begin after the shows. And no one buys retail until the shows in Milan." That's where underpaid fashion staff drop their bags at the hotel and make a beeline for the holy trinity: Gucci, Prada, and Miu Miu, which offer up to 30 percent discounts to visiting editors. Until then, the fashion flock must settle for last season's Fendi baguettes (snatched up for as little as $100 each at last winter's sample sale) and drool over their bosses' front-row wardrobes.

The Late Show
Nan Kempner made a special appearance on the catwalk at the Oscar de la Renta show. No, the svelte socialite wasn't modeling clothes for her longtime friend, just trying to get a better view of his collection: Arriving late to the Bryant Park tents after getting caught in traffic, Kempner decided to make a dash for the VIP section and join the front-row ranks with Barbara Walters and Brooke Astor. Slipping past security, Kempner blocked the view of the photographers' pit and, as she sprinted down the runway, nearly ran into one wobbly-heeled mannequin. But Kempner shows no remorse for her fashion faux pas, explaining: "Hey, better late than never!"

Dampened Spirit
Despite torrential downpours and canceled runway shows, Hurricane Floyd couldn't dampen the fashion flock's outfits -- most just substituted knee-high Barbour wellies for their Manolos. Burberry sent hats to out-of-town editors' hotel rooms and issued emergency ponchos to the city's top editors, even though most were guaranteed to stay dry in their chauffeured cars. Talk fashion editor Constance White shuttled her poncho, folded neatly, from show to show while Anna Wintour wore her plaid cape with stilettos -- no wellies for her.


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