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On the Oscars 2002 fashion scene

Many of the big designers set up special VIP areas in their Rodeo Drive boutiques (Badgely Mischka, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Harry Winston, Ralph Lauren, David Orgell, Valentino and–in the penthouse of its Beverly Hills locale–Chanel), or at offsite locales.

Such headquarters include the L’Ermitage hotel (Escada, Halston, Pamela Dennis, Stuart Weitzman, Van Cleef & Arpels, Claire’s Collection, H. Stern, Chanel cosmetics and hairstylists Frederic Fekkai and Peter Coppola among them), the Beverly Hills Hotel (with four big-name-but-top-secret designers), the Four Seasons Beverly Hills (Jimmy Choo, Chopard, Estee Lauder and eyebrow maven Anastasia) and the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel (Carolina Herrera).

On the Thursday before Oscar weekend, L’Ermitage was at the center of a fashion flurry. Its hallways were filled with criss-crossing style arbiters like Phillip Bloch and George Blodwell and celebs including former Oscar nominee Jennifer Tilly, TV star Jane Seymour, supermodel Audrey Quock and Fox’s NFL weather gal Jillian Barberie picking out fashionable freebies from various plush suites laden with designer merchandise.

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The shops were so bustling with celeb clientele, one manager grumbled privately that she had definitely had her fill of doling out loaners and was ready to get back to the business of actually selling her shop’s pricey merchandise.

Fashion designer Christina Perrin said she works with celebrity clients via the Los Angeles PR firm and showroom Film Fashion, which serves as a liaison between stars and designer names like Iceberg, A Pea in the Pod and Swarovski jewels. “I also do special things for people that I’m going to dress, down at the house that I’ve rented,” said Perrin.

Meanwhile, some brand names less associated with fashion are getting in on the luxe action. Bacardi had the most inventive entry, a deluxe L’Ermitage suite converted into a


retro 1970s club scene complete with disco music, scantily-clad waitresses and ’70s-era fashion magazines on every table top.

Designed to promote its new “O” orange-flavored rum, the Bacardi lounge had bright orange accoutrements and furnishings everywhere, down to orange candies in trays and orange daisies floating in the suite’s bathtub. Stars and designers including Sandra Bullock, James Coburn, Bai Ling, Anna Wilding and Stuart Weitzman discovered it right away, and it soon became a central watering hole for the Hollywood fashion crowd looking for a little relief from the highly charged atmosphere of haute couture.

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There’s also the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Gentleman’s Spa, which took over the L’Ermitage Presidential Suite to offer massages, shaves, manicures, and facials from the experts of Fred Segal Beauty designed to pamper male Oscar nominees, presenters and Industry executives. Alan Cumming, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Donovan Leitch, director Arthur Hiller, Monster’s Ball co-writer Milo Addica, Black Hawk Down editor
Pietro Scalia, In the Bedroom director Todd Field and F/X master Stan Winston were among those who took advantage of the pampering.

As I took in a personal shave and sipped the Blue Label scotch (among Johnnie Walker’s top-of-the-line spirits), Gosford Park producer and co-star Bob Balaban had just finished a treatment and was being given a large gift-wrapped box containing a plush bathrobe and slippers with the Johnnie Walker logo and a small sampler bottle of the Blue Label.

“I got the robe, I had my facial, I had my nails trimmed, and I’ll tell you, it’s the first time I’ve relaxed in about 12 months. I fell asleep a lot,” said Balaban, who admitted he needed some down time after having been on the go non-stop since his film’s December premiere. But it’s uncertain, in his case, if the pampering will actually sell more bottles of the select scotch. “I don’t drink, you see,” he said.

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