Around the World Of Designers

Slava Zaitsev from Moscow, Christian Lacroix from Paris -- both were part of the mingle and mix of the New York designer shows last week.

"Fashion is international. You don't recognize where a woman is from by the way she dresses," said Oscar de la Renta, host at the Council of Fashion Designers party for the press at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Zaitsev was one of the most electrifying personalities I have met in a long, long time. So full of life and zest and enthusiasm. He gave me a lift. I felt like an old man compared to him," admitted de la Renta. He and Bill Blass gave the Russian a complete tour of their workrooms and showrooms.

According to Marvin Traub, chairman of Bloomingdale's, "The stock market has shown us that it is really one world. Something goes bad in one part of the world and you feel it all over. I suspect this internationalization has something to do with the acceptance of designers -- Ralph Lauren in London and Paris, as well as the European designers here."

Increasingly American designers are selling their clothes in Europe. Besides Lauren, Donna Karan is a sellout at Browns in London and is negotiating to have her clothes made in Italy to improve quality and to sell more abroad. Ronaldus Shamask manufactures in Italy now and his success with European stores is growing.

"Trends are the same everywhere," says Laurie Mallet of WilliWear, which has successful shops in London, Paris and New York. "When fashion is good it sells everywhere the same way. Now people travel so much, they get inspired by the same thing. What one wants to wear in Paris is the same that women want to wear in New York."

"American fashion has finally become very important in the total fashion picture, and that gives the designers more confidence," says Paloma Picasso, whose jewelry has begun to be sold in Tiffany stores in London and Munich as well as in New York. "The world is becoming more and more cosmopolitan, and we are all influencing each other."

Patricia Underwood's Hot Haute Toppers

Everyone is showing hats with their clothes this year, and an awful lot of them are by Patricia Underwood. Her hats were used by Rifat Ozbek in London and by Bill Blass, Cathy Hardwick, Calvin Klein, Ronaldus Shamask, David Cameron and others here last week. "It's a good moment for hats, because it is a moment for decorated clothes, and hats are part of the decorations," says Underwood. At Ozbek the hats were big, colored shapes. For others, the flower-and-ribbon-trimmed hats were part of the dressed-up look. "Hats are viable day to day," Underwood says, "but add even more for special occasions."

Hello, Dali! A Surreally Big Show

It was real-life surreal.

A thousand dressed up bodies crushed into the Fashion Institute of Technology, just a shirt-stud's throw from Seventh Avenue, for the gala opening of its "Fashion and Surrealism" exhibition last week.

The partygoers were asked by Harper's Bazaar, sponsor of the fete, to wear "black tie or surrealist." But most opted for just black. They formed a dramatic backdrop for the red lobster stanchions, the green ivy-covered exhibition walls, the wild clothes on display.

And some wore black with surrealist accessories.

"It's my homage to Magritte," said bearded reveler Herman Costa, who described himself as "a photo booth photographer," of his black bowler. Graphic designer Catherine Cole adorned her beehive with a tree branch and a white dove. Erin Hoover grew green silk ivy from her black satin pumps. Painter Chuck Hettinger had a pair of white plaster gloves glued to his Ray-Bans.

"There's a lot of surrealism that goes on in real life," said multimedia artist Terry Niedzialek, who wore a house in her hair. The house, it turned out, was made of synthetic hair sculpted with Tenex hair gel.

Christian Lacroix was spotted wearing a brown satin evening jacket from Herme`s printed with trompe l'oeil chains. Moscow designer Slava Zaitsev, whose hair was moussed straight up, said he recognized Lacroix immediately and ran over to praise him, in Russian. Lacroix's now-famous gray-haired model Marie Seznec came too, dressed in Lacroix couture. The price alone ... surreal. -- Martha Sherrill Dailey

Zandra's Stand-In

"I'm Zandra Rhodes," said the tall, slender woman in the Rhodes gown at the Fashion Group awards dinner at the Waldorf last Sunday night. No pink hair. Natural eyebrows.

It was, in fact, Evangeline Bruce filling in for her friend Rhodes, who had a previous commitment in Australia.

The evening gave Bruce a chance to huddle with friend Karl Lagerfeld, who like Rhodes was an awardee that night, to discuss their shared love for furniture and houses, and to tell awardees Gianni Versace and Mariuccia Mandelli that she is a fan of each.

Andit gave Bruce the chance to see the explosion of short, puffed-out skirts among the fashion crowd. She also has seen her chums in New York wearing them, but she doesn't like them. "They say you can wear short skirts if you have good legs. But to me an old face and good legs just doesn't work. A young face and not so great legs is a better combination."

Notes de la Mode

Arnold Scaasi, who sent flowers to Christian Lacroix after his successful collection, recently asked him what strikes him most agreeably about American fashion. Said Lacroix: "It is that American designers are friendly and talk to one another. In Europe, no one talks to one another."

Le hot gift that everyone has brought home from Europe this year? The Paloma Picasso lipstick, Mon Rouge, sold only in Paris.

Alfred Nipon let everyone know he is out of jail, after serving a sentence for tax evasion, and back in business, literally. After their spring show of pretty, easy dresses, many with gently rounded skirts, both Alfred and Pearl Nipon followed the models the length of the room and received generous applause from the audience of store executives and press. At one point Pearl Nipon gave him a generous hug, and the audience applauded even more loudly.