The Collection With a Washington Beat

Saysyoung designer Leslie Samuel, who recently showed his first collection under his own label in New York, "I'm not looking to be a star. I've seen too many stars come and go."

Apparently a number of stores have other ideas. Samuel, who once designed in Washington and produced clothes here for Liberty of London, already has confirmed orders from stores such as Bloomingdale's, Barney's, Bergdorf Goodman and Ruth Shaw of Baltimore.

Samuel sees his customer as a working woman, "but maybe she has a creative job. And she doesn't even have to be young, but wants to look young."

Samuel sells two lengths: The 15-inch length (measured from the waist) hits midthigh and is doing very well; the 20-inch length stops an inch or so above the knee. He uses little shoulder padding and likes menswear construction. His jackets for spring will cost $800.

A 1983 graduate of the University of Maryland, Samuel is back inWashington about every two months to see his family, visit museums and go to spots such as the 9:30 club and d.c. space and concerts at the Warner Theatre. "The musicians in Washington inspire me, not the people on the street. The energy of the music doesn't seem to touch what people wear."

The upbeat street music of Washington, a tape by Trouble Funk, accompanied Samuel's show.

At the university, he focused on textiles, and he learned more assisting Judah Greenzaid, at G Street Fabrics. There are fabrics in the collection that Greenzaid would find interesting, including a four-way stretch with viscose and rubber made for Samuel in Italy, and a 1940s girdle fabric that he has used for tight pants, a top and skirt. He also uses more classic fabrics such as organdy and cotton check.

Samuel's first stab at working in New York was as "an assistant to an assistant" with Gloria Sachs, whose forte is the fabrics she designs. Later he worked as an errand boy/shipping clerk for Norma Kamali and as a production manager for his friend, designer David Cameron.

Now Samuel is in business with two backers. Jimmy Ligorsky, who was a contractor making clothes for Calvin Klein, Anne Klein and Blassport, does most of the work. His other backer is New York artist Ross Leckner. They leave Samuel time to design and stay out of the limelight. "Let's see if my talent floats to the top," he says. "Let the clothes star, not me."

Designs of the Times: The CFDA Awards

Whenfashion designers gather to honor their own next month, there will be few surprises. Calvin Klein will get the Council of Fashion Designers of America's top award for producing the best American collection. Giorgio Armani will get a Lifetime Achievement Award for his menswear. Armani won't be there to pick it up, he says. Presenting his next menswear collection and his business come first.

There are no special achievement awards this year to match those given to Katharine Hepburn, Christian Lacroix or Ralph Lauren in the past. This time Ronaldus Shamask will be honored for his menswear and Manolo Blahnik for his shoes. Special awards will be given Giorgio Sant'Angelo for his innovations in stretch fabric and Arnold Scaasi for his extravagant party clothes. Marc Jacobs gets the nod as up-and-coming designer, receiving an award named for Perry Ellis, who was head of CFDA at the time of his death in 1986.

Among the most noteworthy awards is that being given to the Fashion Institute of Technology for its exhibitions, such as this year's remarkable show focusing on three women -- Rei Kawakubo, Claire McCardell and Madame Vionnet. Photographer Horst, Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, and fashion editors Hebe Dorsey of the Paris Trib and Bernadine Morris of The New York Times also will get nods from the CFDA.

And the Bead Goes On

Beads are alluring, strung or unstrung. "It's their feel, their roundness, their uniformity. Beads have a primal appeal," says Lois Sherr Dubin.

It's an appeal her publisher is counting on. Dubin is a landscape architect with a lifelong bauble attraction. She was in town last week to speak to the Bead Society of Greater Washington about her new book, "The History of Beads: From 30,000 B.C. to the Present" (Harry N. Abrams, $60).

The 254 color photographs by Togashi are seductive and Dubin's tales exotic. Beads have been charms, talismans, currency, adornments. The American Indians traded with them. They've been used in ceremonies to bind marriages and cure illness. Placed in foundations of ancient West Asian buildings, beads were thought to bring good luck. And, they've been sewn onto clothing as decoration since the Ice Age.

"With the book, I tried to give the little bead the heroic scale it has," says Dubin.

Favorite beads of hers are the carved Japanese ojime, the Roman "face beads" of fused glass "and anything with shamanistic content." She has spent her spare moments over the past 30 years bead hunting, in shops and at auction. Dubin recommends Ornament Magazine, published in Los Angeles, as a place for would-be beaders to start.

Another starting point is her book, one reference you can leave out on the coffee table. No guest will be able to resist the fold-out time line of bead styles through the ages. The book is available here at Olsson's.

-- Martha Sherrill Dailey Notes de la Mode

Theyare still passionate for Elizabeth Taylor's Passion at Neiman Marcus, according to Harold Nelson, vice president and general manager of the store, but the trendy new fragrance at Neiman's this holiday season is Bijan.

It's awards time of year and Vanity Fair has tossed kudos to many, including couturier Christian Lacroix: "Because everyone has had to buy his riotous Provenc al froufrou even though it looks weird as hell on Park Avenue. Because he himself wears Ralph Lauren."

One of the best-kept secrets of the Smithsonian, its December sale, almost never got out this season. The usual announcement on the wrapper of the Smithsonian magazine sent to local zip codes inadvertently got left off most copies. The supersale, minimum 25 percent off in Smithsonian gift shops, takes place Dec. 10 to Dec. 18. (Take it from a heavy shopper, most items go the first day.)

"Robe longue can mean a short dress," says a French Embassy spokeswoman. An invitation to a black-tie dinner at the French Embassy always includes the instructions "long dress," but "we cannot impose on women not to wear one of the new Christian Lacroix styles if they want," she said. At a dinner for Jacqueline de Ribes at the embassy, three guests, including Chief of Protocol Selwa Roosevelt, wore short dresses.