No shadow conspiracy worthy of investigation by a special prosecutor is responsible, but in some strange, inexplicable way, a particular handbag becomes The Bag of the Season. Right now, it's a soft, squooshy rectangle of leather, embossed velvet or leopard-print ponyskin that fastens with an enameled "F" buckle. The Fendi bag, called the Baguette because women tend to tuck it under their arms the way French homemakers tote long loaves of bread, is the choice of the chicest women attending the fall fashion shows in Milan.
And that may be how it attained its current status. A stylish woman wears it. Another woman likes the look and makes it her own. And so on, and so on, until a de facto club of cool women carrying Baguettes has been formed. By the time the word is out on The Bag, it is sold out, and its desirability increases in direct proportion to its unavailability.
"You can't predict these things," said Angela Mariani, a spokeswoman for Fendi. "The Baguette just took off. . . . It will be available again for fall, in cashmere and fur and soft crocodile."
Some of the most popular versions of the Baguette were covered with colored sequins, which enhanced the small bag's dressiness. As such, the Baguette worn in the daytime has a vaguely decadent air, like an evening dress that straggles home the morning after. When a handbag can make its wearer seem coddled, carefree and fun-loving, it's doing a lot more than transporting her lipstick.
Stores We Love: Acqua di Parma was launched at the beginning of this century as a unisex cologne, wrapped in attractive yellow packaging bearing the crest of the Duke of Parma. Diego Della Valle, owner of the company that makes the popular JP Tod shoes, was one of the many Italians who grew up surrounded by the classic citrusy scent. "My father wore it, I wore it, but a few years ago, it suddenly became hard to find," he said. So he persuaded two of his best friends, including the owner of Ferrari, to join him in buying the brand to revive the classic scent.
The first Acqua di Parma store opened in Milan this week, filled with candles, soaps, incense, body creams and potpourri. "Italian designers market fragrances under their names, but those are produced by foreign companies like Estee Lauder or L'Oreal," Della Valle said. "Acqua di Parma is really Italian."
Neiman Marcus will open its own Acqua di Parma boutique in its Beverly Hills store Sunday.
Pucci Collectors, Rejoice: Laudomia Pucci, the 36-year-old daughter of the late Emilio Pucci, has appointed Milan-based designer Stephan Janson to create new styles using prints in the Pucci archives. The Pucci label reached the height of its popularity in the '60s and '70s, when glamorous women like Lauren Bacall and Jacqueline Kennedy collected the distinctively patterned, colorful silk clothes.
Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys executives looked at the new collection, and plan to carry it within the next year.
It Really Is Rubber: Latex-trimmed dresses and blouses that appeared on the Prada runway last season now hang in stores. At a distance, the sheer material looks light and interesting, especially juxtaposed with natural-colored linen. It should come as no surprise that when it's close enough to touch, latex is as cozy as a condom. Which is to say, not very.