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Two for the show

For stars and their designers, like Sylvester Stallone and Gianni Versace, clothes can make the closest of friends

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True stars do shimmer with a one-of-a-kind style. Talent has something to do with it, and so does force of personality. But for a select constellation, the very clothes on their backs define their identities. And often those public personas are a cocreation of star and fashion designer-a relationship that includes close collaboration (Sylvester Stallone and Gianni Versace plan for the Oscars) and often extends right into bosom friendship (Sandra Bernhard and Isaac Mizrahi celebrate Passover together). Here are eight top star-designer duos for whom inspiration is a two-way thing.

SYLVESTER STALLONE AND GIANNI VERSACE In his 1976 film, Rocky, Sylvester Stallone ran the Philadelphia Art Museum steps to get in shape. A decade later, Gianni Versace showed him an easier way: monotone colors. ”I suggested outfits all in blue or black, for example,” the Italian designer says. ”This gave more power to his face and a nonchalance to his big body.” These days, the actor rarely misses the designer’s fashion shows in Milan, and the two have taken vacations together in Como, Italy. There’s even talk that Stallone will showcase his favorite designer’s clothes in his movie Demolition Man (currently in preproduction). ”When I first met Sylvester, I was really impressed by the simple and intelligent attitude of his character—the superficial arrogance of his style really didn’t release his true personality,” says Versace. ”Sylvester is like a good wine: The more time passes, the more tasteful he becomes.”

AUDREY HEPBURN AND HUBERT DE GIVENCHY He defined elegance. She added the incandescence. When Hubert de Givenchy dressed Hollywood’s sylphiest of stars in capri pants and ballet slippers for the 1954 film Sabrina (and framed her even more memorably in a sleeveless black dress and lampshade hat for 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany‘s), they created a style—the gamine look—still emulated around the world. Continuing to design for her films (Funny Face, Charade, Paris When It Sizzles), Givenchy also fashioned Hepburn’s offscreen wardrobe and even developed his perfume with her in mind. ”We have become great friends in life as well as in work,” Givenchy said recently of their 40-year collaboration. ”I continue to think of Audrey when I design.” And Hepburn, now a graceful ambassador for UNICEF, still wears his clothes. ”(They) give me confidence,” she recently told Harper’s Bazaar. ”All those fund-raising trips, cocktails, and galas-I don’t think I could have done it without Hubert’s love and kindness ours is a love that’s lasted 40 years and will last forever. It’s friendship in its purest form.”

QUEEN LATIFAH AND TODD OLDHAM Call it a culture clash: a down-home boy from Texas dressing a homegirl rapper from the Newark projects. But for Queen Latifah, it has been more like a culture smash: ”When I decided to break out of my basic black, big boots, ready-to-kill look, I went straight to Todd because of his multinational designs. He knows how to make women look good.” In the case of the Queen, that wasn’t hard. ”Her best feature is that gorgeous face,” says Oldham, whose designs for Latifah have ranged from a 12-inch-high transparent kufi rivaling Nefertiti’s to a sequin-beaded T-shirt she wore in his fall fashion show. ”I love her spirit. She’s strong, with that great star quality that lights up rooms. I try to play up her rapid-fire personality-keep the attitude and less of the hard-core edge.” The two ”hit it off instantly,” Oldham says. Still, no one rules the Queen. Her favorite color: Royal blue. Her style: Decidedly Afrocentric. But she’s very open-minded. ”I must be true to her heritage and then add a twist to make it me,” Oldham says. ”In the end, it’s her that shines.”

SANDRA BERNHARD AND ISAAC MIZRAHI She’s an audacious performance artist, an actress and comedian with a sleek body and a hip, brash mouth. He’s an audacious young designer with a hip, brash style and a sleek collection. So maybe it was inevitable that Sandra Bernhard and Isaac Mizrahi have become best of friends and best of fashion fits.

Four years ago, the 30-year-old Brooklyn-born Mizrahi — known for his very American innovations (sequined evening parkas!) — fashioned a strapless hot-pants hostess suit for Bernhard to wear on an MTV special. She later wore the same getup in the film version of her acclaimed one-woman stage show, Without You I’m Nothing. These days she wears mostly Mizrahi.

“He does great casual glamour,” she says. “I know that’s a contradiction, but it is true. It’s glamour without hitting you over the head. His clothes accompany me, they don’t overpower me. And they fall perfectly on my body.”

Her friend returns the kisses. “Sandra’s a born clothes hanger,” he says. “Anything looks good on her, and she knows that. She has just enough breast and hips, giant shoulders, a tiny waist, and gorgeous legs. Such a dream in black and brights, but no diluted tones — colors should always match the personality. She likes classical patterns with a little something that’s sexy. She likes a tease, whether it’s a brain or striptease. She refuses to fuss like a European woman, so an evening dress that comes right out of the washing machine is going right into her closet.”

Then there’s their buddy system — a friendship based on a similar way of taking on the world. “Both of our work refers to culture, politics, history, and sexuality,” says Bernhard, who likes to display her own femaleness in sexy clothes (and in Playboy, clothes-free). “We’re both products of the suburbs, and we’re both nostalgic for the way things were when we grew up.” Even hot-pants can recall the way things were — they’re suburban short-shorts with a Mizrahi-Bernhard twist.

JOAN CRAWFORD AND ADRIAN For shouldering Joan Crawford’s fashion burdens, necessity proved the mother of invention: To minimize the actress’ size-12 hips, the legendary Hollywood designer drew attention upward with wildly padded shoulders. The accentuated shape became not only Adrian’s signature look but Crawford’s as well-and also an instant fashion sensation (Macy’s claimed to have sold more than 500,000 copies of her white organdy dress from the 1932 film Letty Lynton). Adrian, who over 30 years transformed Crawford’s look from flapper to siren, “had an unerring sense of what was useful or what would distract from a dramatic scene,” the actress once said. “He knew all of us — and how we would play a scene — before we knew ourselves.”

CHER AND BOB MACKIE With minimal yardage, designer Bob Mackie provides maximum exposure. When he dressed Cher in eye-popping outfits for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in the early ’70s, CBS responded by censoring her navel. Cher split from husband Sonny shortly thereafter, but she and Mackie are often still a team: He contributed designs for the European tour of her latest album, Love Hurts. Mackie’s most famous je ne sais quoi for Cher-a chiffon concoction, transparent but for a few strategically placed bugle beads and vulture feathers-made both Vogue and the cover of Time in 1975. “It was sure an event wearing that dress,” she said. In Cher, Mackie found the perfect body (“I could cut down to where I wouldn’t cut down on most people”). And Cher volleys the compliment. Of Mackie’s elaborate rhinestone-sequin-feathered creations, she says: “They aren’t just body coverings. They are experiences.”

ISABELLA ROSSELLINI AND ZORAN When Isabella Rossellini says Yugoslav-born designer Zoran “has no sense of fashion,” she means it as a compliment. “His is a philosophy rather than a fashion — very minimalistic,” says the actress, who wears his designs in her Lancome ads. Zoran sees Rossellini as the ideal ’90s woman. “She has presence — she doesn’t need to show off anything,” he says. “She has beautiful skin and short hair, so she can wear any color. She looks like an angel.” Zoran’s designs, once described in Vanity Fair as “Gap for the very rich zipperless, buttonless, padless geometric shapes that alter little from year to year,” are perfectly suited to the globe-trotting Rossellini: “They’re so incredibly comfortable and classical. Everything goes together. It’s very convenient.”

LIZA MINNELLI AND HALSTON Halston always said, “You are only as good as the people you dress.” And one person who appreciated just how good Halston really was is Liza Minnelli. “I have been wearing his clothes since I was 20,” she said in 1990, shortly after the designer died of AIDS at the age of 57. “I have everything he ever designed for me. He made me feel comfortable, sexy, and American.” When the elegant, nightlife-loving designer and the high-energy daughter of Hollywood met, “they became fast and furious friends,” says someone who was close to both.

He styled her act and she played his muse. In bias-cut jersey and short beaded dresses, Minnelli danced through the night with him-their trips to New York’s Studio 54 helped make the place famous. During his celebrated 1974 fashion show at Versailles, Minnelli’s strut down the runway blew people out of their chairs-American designers had landed on the map. For Minnelli’s stage shows, Halston also knew what worked best: When she was under hot lights, he dressed her in sequins so the sweat wouldn’t show. “If you’re going to be shiny,” he declared, “you might as well shine all over.”