"Just my luck to pick Ramadan or Yom Kippur to have a show," said Bill Blass when he was told that some of his rich Arab customers would have to skip lunch at Neiman-Marcus yesterday since this is the Islamic month of fasting.
Just the same, when the store manager Tony Harriman suggested the designer come out and "smooth up the guests a bit," there were plenty of customers to kiss -- Rosemarie Bogley, Carolyn Long, Jane Coyne, Helga Orfila and Nancy Dickerson among them.
This was the annual mid-summer rite of fashion, the first fall runway showing in this town. Blass' fall clothes were presented to about 125 guests over fruit salad and macaroons served up on tables covered in black cloths with pink napkins. Followed by an opportunity to buy the clothes, of course.
"The more expensive they are, the more they sell," insisted Blass, who claims his $5,000 pink cashmere bathrobe-style coat with sable collar and cuffs is a best seller. ("Quickly, get out of it, you are getting it wrinkled," Blass teased model/television personality Alanna Davis who had come with him from New York to do the show. "You wanna look rumpled like me?" Blass asked, looking down at his very wrinkled chewing-gum green linen suit, blue oxford shirt open at the collar and cuffs, loosened cotton tweed tie and bare feet in slip-on moccasins.
"Women are looking for things they don't already own that are bold and recognizable," insists Blass. "The bigger the ruffle the better."
The show was berserk with ruffles, starting with ruffles on Donegal tweed suits, followed by ruffles on sweaters, then ruffled blouses, then ruffles at the hemlines and necklines and eventually ruffles swallowing up many of the gala dresses.
Blass said he recently turned down the chance to put his "brand" on designer label caskets and braces for teeth -- the way he has on Lincoln cars and sheets and towels. He admitted his couture (expensive) clothes are not moneymakers for him, but a way to rev up interest in his other products.
But the prices won't stop tax attorney Michele Metrinkowere. "The way the dollar is depreciating," said the former Miss World, "why hold on to it?" tCarol Towe, wife of Canadian ambassador, said she would have to check her bank acount before trying on any of the clothes.
It wasn't the price line that bothered Sallie Ann Robbins, but the hemlines some of which cut off just above the knee. "There go my plans for a facelift; I guess," she said. "I wonder where I can get a knee lift."