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High Notes

updated 04/13/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1998 01:00AM

GIANNI MAY BE GONE, BUT VERSACE ROCKS ON. THE LATE ITALIAN DESIGNER'S sister Donatella kicked off New York City's Seventh on Sixth fashion week March 28 with the unveiling of her fall 1998 Versus collection; true to form, the show combined fashion, the famous and rock and roll. Alternative rock's Foo Fighters pumped up the volume for a Roseland nightclub audience that included megawarblers Whitney Houston, Lenny Kravitz and k.d. lang. "This is my first fashion show ever," gushed No Doubt front woman Gwen Stefani. "Except for the one I went to at the Orange County Mall in 1985 with my mother. I used to be the thrift store queen, but I could become a fashion junkie."

She'd be in good company. Hollywood notables, including Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett and Versace devotee Elizabeth Hurley, were also on hand to support Donatella's first solo New York City presentation since her brother's murder last July. Even Woody Allen showed up. The director sat in the front row between Santo Versace, Donatella's brother, and wife Soon-Yi Previn, covering his ears to muffle the blaring soundtrack. Other attendees were more receptive to the high decibels. "Versace was always a rebel, and rock and roll has always been about rebellion," said Mira Sorvino "The two are a natural marriage."

Still, despite its amplified edge, Versace's show was short on shock and big on basics. Lasting less than 15 minutes, it featured pigtailed models in skirt-over-pants combos of black matte jersey with slashes of red and yellow. The only bow to bareness: short chain-mail dresses with peekaboo bodices. "The clothes are so sexy because they don't reveal anything except your strength and character," said Driver. "And they're so lean, they're good for tall women like me."

After the show, Versace herded her entourage downtown for an intimate dinner of mushroom spring rolls and sake martinis at the hip (though not yet open to the hoi polloi) eatery Bond St. Kravitz, for one, felt right at home. "Fashion and music go together, man," he said. Actress Patricia Arquette agreed. "Most of the time," she said, "I just wear whatever I have around." On this night, though, she was decked out in a shiny gunmetal gray pantsuit, compliments of Versace. "It's neat," she added.
"I feel like Elvis."

JEREMY HELLIGAR
STEVEN COJOCARU in New York City

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