Give Washington something to talk about and just try to find an empty seat.

Take the opening of Helga Orfila's new designer accessories shop, Helga O. Space is so limited, she said yesterday, that she has had to plan several opening nights to accommodate all of her friends.

Among those she expects Thursday night at the shop's 44th Street NW location is her husband, Alejandro Orfila, the flamboyant former secretary general of the Organization of American States who left Gray and Co. recently after questions surfaced about his management of its Madrid office.

"He had to promise he wouldn't steal the show," said his wife.

A former model who once managed a Munich boutique ("You have to have somebody honest to do that, you know," she said), she had planned to open her shop last December. Then last-minute hitches forced a delay.

Now all systems are go and, as she puts it, she is "back to my old life style." Call the attendant publicity what you will, including "unpleasant," not all aspects of it are bad.

"I always say that you can't help being popular," said the glamorous, German-born Orfila. "When I start to worry is when people stop talking."