the Insiders


The scene at Macy's.
By joining the department store markdown melee, fragrance is taking the final step to transforming itself into a fashion item -- and that is not an entirely glamorous prospect.

The brighter lights of the beauty industry have always taken pride in considering their category to be part of the fashion family. But like most families, there are members who are as similar as cats and dogs, with different nervous systems and warring agendas. Fashion is artistic, instinctual and of the moment. Beauty is product-centric, analytical and more than a bit plodding. Unlike fashion, the goal in the fragrance industry is to sell the same item, like Chanel No. 5, for eternity and a day, with the same bottle and the same juice.

A near-empty mall on Black Friday.

In retail circles this holiday season, there's a running joke about sales trends -- minus 10 is the new flat.

Some businesses and categories are said to tracking negative 20 or 30 percent. But at this point, with calendar shifts supposedly delaying shopping and until the December comparable-store sales figures get reported Jan. 8, it's hard to figure the depths of retailers' despair.

The coif in question.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
The columnist Peggy Noonan called Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich "a lipless, dull-featured, wig-wearing moron." Chris McMillan, who did Jennifer Aniston's shag, sniped "Jack Lord called. He wants his look back."

Kate Winslet
The red carpet may be a bit muted this awards season.

With the U.S. in recession, global markets in upheaval and labor unrest in Hollywood, jewelry and beauty publicists predict that celebrity gift suites will be more scarce, or at least more subtle. Several pre- and post-awards parties are on hold or scaled back. Vanity Fair, which decided to cancel its post-Oscar festivities last year because of uncertainty over whether the show would be halted because of the writers' strike, is said to be trimming its guest list this year.

Tinseltown has experience in toning things down.

Eager shoppers at the Marc Jacobs sale. PHOTO BY JIMI CELESTE

When I was a kid, I believed there were inalienable marks of adulthood: getting up early because you wanted to; liking coffee and arcane vegetables. Similarly, I now maintain certain indicators suggest, more than mere adulthood, that you are, quite simply, old. An abbreviated list: getting a flu shot (to date, I have steadfastly refused); voting one's wallet; uttering to a child, "When I was your age..." followed by a statement either hyperbolic, à la the proverbial "...I walked six miles to school in the snow," or merely ridiculous "...there was no Crest for Kids. We brushed with regular toothpaste and were glad to have it."

Luckily, some instances of the genre can be avoided, which I recommend highly. This weekend, however, I landed plop in the middle of one. When I first heard of Saturday's scheduled one-day megasale at Marc Jacobs on Mercer Street -- bags from $50 to $300, shoes 90 percent off -- I didn't give it a second thought. Once upon a time, the promise of a deal, whether at retail or a sample sale, would have had me first in line. I could push, shove and grab, politely enough, with the best of them. Now, thank you, I'll pass.

See a slideshow of images here>>

A.G. Lafley, chairman and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble Co., on Thursday sent shivers down the spines of every media buyer, ad director and publisher in the world when he told analysts,

"This media environment is a big 'O' opportunity for us, because we're the biggest advertiser in a lot of these countries, and we can just walk in and tear up the contract."

P&G spent $8.7 billion on advertising in fiscal 2008, filling the television airwaves, magazine pages and, increasingly, Web sites, as P&G is among the leaders in online advertising. What was clear from Lafley's statement was that P&G -- where advertising spending in the first nine months of the current fiscal year declined 5.9 percent to $2.2 billion -- plans to flex its muscles more than ever.

>> What do you think?

Continue the discussion by commenting below.

Oprah Winfrey in Maria Pinto.
They say that seeing Oprah is like seeing God.

So when she arrived at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 50th anniversary gala Dec. 3, I half expected a halo and glowing light emanating from her being. Neither manifested, but her presence was so that, throughout the evening, you were never not aware that Oprah was in the house. (Fortunately for gawkers, her curly hair made her easier to spot).

As honorary chair, Winfrey was introduced onstage by friend and Ailey artistic director Judith Jamison. But while Jamison entered from the wings, Winfrey was dramatically revealed center stage as the theater's heavy red curtains lifted. This woman knows she's a star.
While Joshua Bell was overwhelmed by the number of fans who gathered on his birthday for the first concert to be held in his renovated triplex, he did add that this was his smallest audience ever, citing a concert with the New York Philharmonic in Central Park as the largest. Wednesday night's crowd might have been small, but originally 70 people were expected, and almost double that number gathered to celebrate the artist's 41st birthday, including the likes of Glenn Close; Renée Fleming, accompanied by Coty's Bernd Beetz, who does her fragrance; Moby; George Soros; Phil Ramone, and Adam Weinberg.

Inauguration sketch by Oscar de la Renta

Every four years, and sometimes more often, I get in a First Lady frenzy. First of all, because WWD is eager to get the news before anyone else: How will she be dressed for the inauguration ceremony and the subsequent balls? What designer will she choose? Will it be the tried and trues like Oscar and Carolina or will, suddenly, a heretofore unknown name pop up from, say Dallas, Little Rock or Maria Pinto. Will a "new" talent be launched in a singular sweep?


To the rest of the world, pre-fall, the time before fall, is late summer. You know, the days are still sticky; lucky two-residence types resign themselves to spending less time at the beach; and kids, to going back to school. Back in the day, that's when most people started thinking about fall shopping. Just the thought of that new chilly-weather wardrobe brought a rush of excitement, the promise of crisp days that one would greet bedecked in cozy tweeds and cable knits.
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