...but who will become dresser to the stars?

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The Independent Online
Liz Hurley will miss Versace more than she knows. Her career was built on a single piece of Versace magic, held together by gold safety pins. No other designer could grab headlines and cause a sensation quite like Gianni.

No other designer would push the depths of tackiness, and make a dress plunge down and slash up at all the strategic places. The thing about a drop- dead Versace dress is that usually the sex goddess inside it couldn't possibly be wearing any knickers. Not even a G-string.

Aspiring Hurleys will have to shop elsewhere if they are after a dress sensation guaranteed to get fashion editors, casting agents and editors in a flap. When it comes to star, "result" dresses, the centre of the fashion world is Beverly Hills, where every design house with an eye on the value of a bit of free publicity has a PR and an agent. So who will the stars go to now?

Missoni is the latest design house to embrace and be embraced by Hollywood. At a recent charity show Angela Missoni, responsible for souping up the label's eveningwear, flew to the LA branch of Saks Fifth Avenue to cultivate the likes of Tori Spelling, herself a Versace customer, Jennifer and Meg Tilly, and Quincy Jones. Almost the entire stock sold out. Sharon Stone, a Valentino wearer, requested to meet Ms Missoni for lunch. "I don't think we have the same pizzazz as Versace," says Missoni. "But we have certainly gone more glamorous and sexy. Hollywood picked up on that about a year ago." At the premiere of My Best Friend's Wedding in New York CHK two weeks ago, Julia Roberts made the front page of the Evening Standard as well as the Daily Mail in a light-catching strappy, sequinned Missoni sheath.

What with Missoni, Armani, who dresses Jodie Foster, Winona Ryder, Faye Dunaway, Glen Close, and Dolce e Gabbana, favourites of Madonna, the Italians have cleaned up on celebrity dressing. Rome-based Valentino makes dresses with sex appeal that has seduced Stone and Joan Collins into slipping into them. His most recent couture collection took a dip from his usual high-taste levels and had the brash appeal of Versace, with vulgar fur trimmings, spike heeled bootees and glitzy evening gowns.

Other dresses that have made headlines include that Dior empire line number that Diana, Princess of Wales wore last year to the opening of the Dior retrospective in New York. That wasn't a result of sex appeal but because it was John Galliano's first for Dior and because it was worn by Di.

Galliano knows how to cut a slinky evening frock. Nicole Kidman was voted one of the best-dressed at this year's Oscar ceremony in a green embroidered, mink-trimmed dress from his first collection for Dior couture. Another designer who rose to prominence in the Eighties is Herve Leger, or "Curvy Herve" as he was nick-named by the tabloids. He makes unashamedly steamily sexy dresses out of strips of industrial strength elastic that push up and in as effectively as anything Versace designed.