If it's September, it must be Fashion Week. Sort of.

New York Confidential

RATHER confusingly, New York Fashion Week has been divided into two this Autumn. It was originally scheduled to take place in November after the collections in London, Milan and Paris. But in August, Helmut Lang announced that he couldn't possibly wait that long to show his Spring collection. "The energy is gone at that point, the energy is exhausted," he complained to Women's Wear Daily - so he would be showing in September. Not surprisingly, a number of other New York designers - Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, for example - decided to follow suit and the result is two Fashion Weeks.

One of the reasons Helmut Lang did this, according to a Vogue editor I spoke to, is to avoid being accused of plagiarism. Within the fashion press, apparently, the issue of who has copied whom each season comes down to which collection they see first. Of course, the idea that a designer could attend the showing of a rival's collection then rush back to his studio and rip it off in time for his show the following week is preposterous but, needless to say, fashion writers aren't the sharpest crayons in the pencil-case.

I'm not complaining, since two Fashion Weeks means twice as many parties. You can always tell when a celebrity has entered your airspace at one of these parties since the person you're talking to suddenly becomes all glassy-eyed and doesn't hear a word you're saying. Interestingly, though, they don't look over your shoulder. Among the Fashionista, it's considered so "trailer park" to gawk at celebrities that whenever one enters the room they look anywhere but straight at them. Consequently, if Leonardo DiCaprio is standing right next to you, the frisky young model you're talking to looks you directly in the eye for the first time that evening. Then she goes home with Leonardo DiCaprio.

By common consent, the best party of New York Fashion Week Part I - which took place last week - was the opening of a new Louis Vuitton shop in SoHo. Naomi Campbell announced in advance that it was the only Fashion Week party she'd be attending and sure enough, she appeared, basking in the glow of the flashbulbs. The only time it is acceptable to openly stare at celebrities is when they are being photographed since the flashbulbs leave them temporarily blinded so they can't see you gawking at them.

Almost as much excitement was caused by the appearance at the Vuitton party of Kylie Bax, the hot model of the moment. She's generating heat, strangely, partly because she's going out with Donald Trump. A fortnight ago he took her to the US Open, striding in with her on his arm in the middle of the Ladies final. Every head in the stadium turned towards him and someone shouted, "Hey Donald, who's the blonde?"

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THE number one film at the US box office last week was a comedy thriller starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton called Rounders. For reasons I can't quite explain, I find it very irritating that a Hollywood studio has the confidence to release a film with that title without fearing that it might be mistaken for a film about... well, rounders. After all, it's inconceivable that a British company would release a film called Baseball if it wasn't, in fact, about baseball.

Apparently, the film's title refers to a slang term favoured by poker players to describe professional gamblers who make the rounds from game to game. At least, that is what it's supposed to refer to. The New York Post interviewed a number of veteran poker players who'd never heard of the term. In fact, nearly all the slang bandied about in the film turns out to be highly suspect. As a professional card-sharp told the Post, "In one scene, the Ed Norton character says something like, `After the finger, that leaves the white meat'. No one speaks like that. If anyone said something like that, we'd say, `Huh? What the hell are you talking about?'"

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AT ONE of the Fashion Week parties I attended I was accosted by two gorgeous models making a documentary about Brits in New York. They turned out to be Tess Daly, a 27-year-old blonde from Cheshire, and Orla O'Rourke, a 25-year-old redhead from County Tyrone. If Austin Powers had been at the party, these girls would have been on his arm. A few minutes earlier they'd interviewed Geoffrey Ling, the British Consul General in New York. He quite properly asked them if they had work permits then, rather less properly, invited them both to a party at the British Consulate. There's hope for the old country yet.

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ONE OF the wonderful things about living in America is that when the country is gripped by a big news story - such as the Clinton scandal - people actually stand around on street corners discussing it. I encountered one such town meeting on my way back from the post office recently.

"What's all this stuff about him s'posed to be setting an example?" I heard one black lady say to another, presumably about the President. "I never exampled myself on anyone but myself."

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