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DESIGNER DEFECTS TO THEATRICAL SIDE OF FASHION

Manolo has left as he came, suddenly and with a temperamental flourish. A news release from the designer, who painstakingly turned out some of the most inventive clothes in fashion from his studio, said he was resigning as head designer for Manolo Ready Couture.

The release said he would be working with his partner, Arnaldo Ferrara, Manolo's creative accomplice in the passionate, theatrical productions of his runway shows, on dance, theater and sculpture. The designer did not return telephone calls.Manolo embodied the tension between the artistic and the commercial sides of fashion, thumbing his nose at the Seventh Avenue hierarchy, banning Women's Wear Daily from his shows and fighting with retailers.

Despite his idiosyncrasies, he won a place in some of the most tasteful retailing showcases, and was a favorite of magazine editors, who wore his clothes and featured them in their editorial layouts.

This is not the first time Manolo has abruptly walked away. In 1989, he closed his hat design studio and moved to a fishing village in Venezuela, returning to New York to stage his first fashion extravaganza in a downtown loft in an ode to Latin icons such as Carmen Miranda.

- Constance C.R. White