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Seeing Spots; Striped Sass; and more . . .

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Neck and Neck
The most interesting thing about the way Alexander McQueen opened his London show last week was not the carnival atmosphere he had worked so hard to create. For true trend-seekers, the focal point was a khaki-colored vinyl tie, knotted loosely around the first model's neck and worn over a short-sleeved blouse. It's not that women in ties are new (see Annie Hall, Marlene Dietrich); it's more that they're back. Slim ties paired with something very feminine -- like dangly earrings or brave, red lipstick -- have been sighted on at least one buyer (Intermix), one editor (Vogue), and one stylist (W). Which means you want one, you just don't know it yet.

Striped Sass
So much has been made, in recent seasons, of fashion girls and their chilly, naked feet. First, no stockings allowed. Then, only fishnets (which don't exactly insulate). The latest solution, spotted repeatedly front row at Bryant Park during the fall 2001 collections, is sexy, pointy stilettos (like these Manolo Blahniks) matched up with a pair of candy-striped anklets. The brand of choice is Antipast -- which are Japanese and very, very cute ($24 at Barneys New York, 660 Madison Avenue). The effect, when paired with dirty, fraying denim or dark wool trousers, has a London-gal, thrift-store appeal that says, I may suffer for these shoes, but I do have a sense of humor. Of course, if pant lengths keep getting longer, our feet will be plenty warm anyway. We'll just be tripping more.

Seeing Spots
You spent the winter acquiring as many plaid and logo-covered purses and totes as the plastic would allow -- but this spring there's one more unsubtle fabric vying for space on your shoulder: dots. At Kooba, carpenter bags seem to have taken their inspiration from those paper sheets of sugar buttons you used to peel off and eat ($350 at Bergdorf Goodman); J.P. Tod's suede satchels are punctuated with Baskin Robbins- pink and periwinkle blue spots ($1650, at J.P. Tod's, 650 Madison Avenue); even Kate Spade has sophisticated black-on-white spheres ($265 at Kate Spade, 454 Broome Street). Just one question: How long before this bubble bursts?
SARAH BERNARD

Smart Set:
Jay Ruckel
There is one designer every celebrity -- from Mary J. to Jackie O. -- has worn. His name is Jay Ruckel, and he works fourteen hours a day, cutting gloves above a souvenir shop in the shadow of the Empire State building. For the fall 2001 collections alone, he made gloves for 43 designers; this in addition to catering to the whims (buckles! safety pins!) of countless stylists, and whipping up dozens of pairs of white gloves for this year's debutantes. When Phillip Roth was writing American Pastoral, whose main character is a glove manufacturer, he came to Ruckel. "Sixty-six of my stories are in there!" Ruckel says proudly. Ruckel and his wife, LaCrasia Duchein, got into glove-making in 1973. Betsey Johnson was one of their first customers, and soon fashion houses the world over were calling. There is no glove, it seems, Ruckel can't make -- his retail store (LaCrasia Gloves, 304 Fifth Avenue) carries everything from lacy eighties fingerless styles ($50) to smooth leather driving gloves ($100). But then, perhaps it is in his blood. "I have an uncle who studies genealogy," Ruckel says, "and he recently figured out that, in the sixteenth century, my ancestors were glove-makers!"


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