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For Radziwill, Life’s an Armani Event

Wearing a button-up-the-back Giorgio Armani blouse and a skirt she had chopped off from mid-calf to just above the knee, Lee Radziwill emerged early one morning from the hair salon at Neiman-Marcus with her familiar, if dated, teased brown mane.

She gamely flashed the famous Bouvier smile, even though she was suffering from a head cold and had recently returned from her summer home in Sardinia.

In her new professional capacity, a title-less position with Giorgio Armani in New York, Radziwill, 54, is lending cachet and a certain regal bearing (after all, she was once married to a Polish prince) to events, such as the recent showing of Armani’s fall and early spring collection at the Costume Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“I do a little bit of everything,” Radziwill said, her voice soft but deep. “If you want a title, I suppose it would be director of special events.”

One event she is overseeing will be Armani’s show next April at the Museum of Contemporary Art (“Giorgio will be there himself!”), which, she hopes, will coincide with the opening of a free-standing Armani boutique in Beverly Hills.

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The younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis went to work for the Milanese designer precisely one year ago when he told Radziwill: “It would be great if we could join forces,” she recalled.

“He knew my feelings about his creativeness, and I liked him enormously as a person,” she said, crossing her long, thin legs and tugging on her short skirt.

“I’ve worn his clothes for about the last six years, mainly only his clothes, I like them so much. They suit my way of life so well. They’re so effortless; they’re so easy to wear, and there are never violent extremes or radical changes.”

Radziwill said the fashion business appeals to her because it isn’t far from the world of interior design. For either seven or eight years (she isn’t sure), she ran her own interior-design business specializing in commercial properties. She closed it when it became “a repetition of phone calls every day about plumbers and electricians. Not plumbers,” she corrected herself. “About details.”

But Radziwill refuses to succumb to a life of frivolity, and said she simply couldn’t imagine not working. Indeed, in 1967 she graced the cover of Life magazine for a story entitled, “Girls Who Have Everything Are Not Supposed to Do Anything.”

Then, her career was stage acting, which turned out to be but a brief chapter in her life. “It was so much against my husband’s will that I stopped, much to my regret,” she explained. “There were some wonderful opportunities ahead.”

Now she rhapsodizes about the talent of Giorgio Armani. “Designers think they have to change, otherwise, there would be no fashion. But that’s why Armani is so outstanding. He always keeps continuity there.”

Shoe designer Andrea Pfister has good news for women who balk at paying $450, the average price tag on a pair of his Italian-made shoes. While the weakened dollar is pushing up the prices of most Italian imports, Pfister has drastically slashed his prices. At Saks in Beverly Hills, shoes from the fall line start at $180.

Although $180 won’t afford you a whimsical Pfister animal shoe (lobsters are the newest) or beaded evening pump, it will buy a classic pump or sling-back that is hand stitched, hand cut and hand lasted just like the more intricate designs. “I felt there was a certain resistance,” Pfister explained during his biannual visit to the store.

“Instead of buying three or four or five pairs, our customer started to buy one or two. I said, ‘We have to do something.’ ”

In the process, Pfister has discovered, “it’s more difficult to create a simple, well-proportioned shoe than something very busy.”

New York designer Joan Vass on hemlines: “I don’t recommend short or long skirts,” she said, herself in an ankle-length skirt for a show at Neiman-Marcus, where long, short and everything in between flashed across the runway.

“I’m not doctrinaire. Women of style don’t ever throw their clothes away. They wear them (the clothes) when they’re 20 years old.”

The latest in a long line of women of style to wear Vass is chic Marin Hopper, the 25-year-old daughter of Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward. Hayward

is a longtime Vass aficionado.

A battalion of miniskirted women set up camp in a suite at the Hotel Bel-Air. Amid the international fragrance warriors, just in from Rome, bottles of a new amber fragrance, body lotion and perfumed bath-and-shower gel were lined up like little soldiers.

Overseeing all was Carla Fendi, one of five Fendi sisters who run the Italian fashion house bearing their surname. Known as the company workaholic, Carla handles Fendi’s public relations in America. She has yet to learn English, but she doesn’t seem to let it bother her.

Carla, dressed in a mid-thigh skirt, expressed her thoughts through an aide and tried to explain why she thinks Fendi perfume (available at Nordstrom) will flourish here despite the competition: “In the way that there are fans of certain movies, there will be fans of Elizabeth Taylor” (who’s promoting her own, rival fragrance, Passion). She hastened to add: “But the link between perfume and fashion designers goes back a long time; the link between perfume and movie stars is new.”

Along with fashion designers and film stars, add a new fragrance link to a jewelry store. Tiffany introduced its own, house-brand perfume this fall.

The blue-chip customer might also find herself sighting in on Cartier’s 19-piece collection of diamond-studded and jeweled eyeglasses. Be prepared to come up with $11,500 to $55,000 for the spectacles, which may be worn with or without perfume.

“Today it costs $10 million to develop a fragrance,” said Suzanne de Lyon, who should know. Since she got hers started three years ago, the Texan says, she has invested $9 million.

De Lyon’s Animale (“Americans like a short name and one with meaning”) was launched this fall at I. Magnin.

A perfumer in Monte Carlo created the rose-based scent for the private use of the Houston real estate entrepreneur. Then, De Lyon says, she asked herself: “Well, I’m a businesswoman--can I commercialize it?”

Her first-year sales projection: $30 million. And that’s not counting the gels and lotions to come.


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