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Designer duds on the block for fundraiser

By wire services
Published November 17, 2005

NEW YORK - One of the fashion world's favorite secrets is about to become public: It is possible to buy top-quality designer merchandise at a fraction of the price.

Sample sales often are reserved for industry insiders. On the rare occasions when they are open to regular shoppers, they're still only in urban fashion centers, such as New York or Paris.

But, in the name of a good cause - the fight against HIV and AIDS - a huge sample sale will be conducted on eBay through Dec. 7.

Contributing designers in "7th on Sale" include Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren and Kenneth Cole, all of whom are honorary chairmen. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue are the sponsors.

What kinds of bargains can one expect? Huge discounts and limited-edition merchandise, according to Constance White, style director of eBay.

Sample sales used to be only for manufacturers to sell off their samples but they've evolved to include an array of merchandise.

Pricing will begin on eBay at 10 percent of the wholesale price "and then we'll let the market decide," White said. More than 6,000 pieces of women's, men's and children's clothing in addition to accessories will be sold. Lanvin, Oscar de le Renta and Prada are among those contributing items. To find the items, go to www.ebay.com and search "7th on Sale."

The CFDA and Vogue launched "7th on Sale" in 1990 to raise money for the New York City AIDS Fund, collecting $10-million since its debut. However, the initiative went on hiatus in 1995 as drug therapies and awareness shifted the focus on the disease in the United States. This sale will raise funds for education and prevention programs worldwide.

A new idea fills the room

Scented candles offer a pleasant fragrance and a soft romantic ambience. The scent can be therapeutic.

But they can also cause smoke damage and require intense vigilance.

The newest trend is less hazardous and lower maintenance. Make way for diffusion sticks. They are called "reed diffusers," which are sticks of wood that stand in containers of scented liquid and wick the fragrance into the room.

The Wall Street Journal says they have long been popular in Europe and are just beginning to show up in American retail stores. Neiman Marcus sells versions from $78 to $90 for three decanters or one large one, but on a more mass scale, Pier 1 has introduced diffusers in five scents for $12 to $15 each.

WSJ says the price variation is not because of the reeds. As with perfume, the cost depends on the container and the fragrance.

Mission: proper manners

Don't bet the farm on it. But maybe, just maybe, good manners are on the upswing.

The New York Times reports that etiquette training seems to be in high demand. There are no hard numbers for evidence, but etiquette consultants say they are getting increased calls for their services.

Colleges are offering etiquette seminars. And booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and Borders report an increase in sales of etiquette books.

The motivation? There are no clear answers. The interest seems to be among men and women.

Some people think improving social skills on everything from holding a fork to making conversation will give them more confidence. Some think training will give them an edge in competition for jobs and dates.

It may also be an offspring of the times. Young people spend so much time on computers, they haven't had time to polish one-on-one graces.

Peggy Post, the etiquette guru and great-granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, told the New York Times that busy working parents had not taken time to teach their children how to act.

And cell phones and e-mails present a challenge in proper behavior. For instance, how do you politely quiet a loud cell phone conversation? Or slow down the gum chewing?

The overall goal, noted one instructor, was to be cool, calm and collected in a social situation. It's a state we wish for all of us.

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