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Bill Blass's European import, and more . . .


Switching Channels

As more restaurateurs and boutique owners put a hold on cell-phone use under their roofs, the city's chattier classes have discovered a fashionably covert method of communication. The everywhere-at-once Ronson twins Charlotte and Samantha have declared mobile-phone conversations passé, replacing their prized StarTACs with Motorola's PageWriter 2000Xes, and Serena Altschul and Leonardo DiCaprio are also discreetly punching in party plans on the palm-size keyboards. Capable of sending instant messages via e-mail, the slightly-larger-than-a-business-card beepers ($360) are no longer strictly for doctors and drug dealers. And with conversations now clandestine, no one can eavesdrop on -- or shush -- your wireless tête-a-tête.

Sole Searching

If 1999 was the year of the bag, 2000 is the year of the shoe. Diane von Furstenberg has produced her first shoe, a stacked wooden heel with silk floral prints ($185) that match her signature wrap dresses. Katayone Adeli is expanding her empire with a collection of platform-heeled shoes and molded ankle boots to debut in September. Even bag ladies Anya Hindmarch and Kate Spade are banking on footwear fortunes: Hindmarch with silk-and-leather mules ($455), and Spade with a line of beaded flip-flops and silk sandals ($150-$290).

Checking In

In the recent campaign to revamp its aging brand, Burberry has succeeded in becoming the gotta-have-it label for spring. Rising stars like Miguel Adrover and Russell Sage both paid tribute to the 144-year-old English house by "borrowing" the signature plaid on their fall 2000 runways, recycling trench coats into dresses and splicing swatches of the favored pattern into Chinese silk. Rumors immediately spread that the company would take legal action if the designers tried to sell their pastiche pieces, but that hasn't slowed sales on Canal Street, where the traditional tartan has resurfaced as the preferred knockoff. Club Monaco's new versions of the all-too-familiar plaid are already selling out for spring. A tight-fitting tan shirt with a loose black-and-red plaid ($79) is decidedly Burberryesque, though a sales assistant notes one difference: "We have an extra stripe."

Shop Talk

While Bernard Arnault is busily recruiting hot young designers like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano to add sizzle to aging couture collections, Bill Blass has picked an industry unknown to take over the helm of his 30-year design legacy. Detroit-born designer Steven Slowik, named Blass's successor two weeks ago, has been tucked away in Europe for the past decade, quietly modernizing the look of Salvatore Ferragamo as well as scissoring out his own ready-to-wear line. But though Slowik has been widely praised for his clean lines and handcrafted details, Blass is the original celebrity designer, outfitting the society set from Slim Keith to Nan Kempner, suggesting a successor more like, say, Michael "Park Avenue Princesses" Kors. But the 39-year-old Slowik is confident in his new role as Stateside style-maker, claiming that he will "bring European luxury back to America."


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