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Swimming in the spotlightAnita Nall, the 15-year-old...


Swimming in the spotlight

Anita Nall, the 15-year-old swimming dynamo from Towson Catholic High, has broken into select circles. She broke the world record in the 200-meter breast stroke, which put her on the way to the Olympics in Barcelona with the United States swim team. And she's featured in a full-page Gap ad which debuts in July's top fashion magazines.

She won the spot on the team with athletic ability and training, but selection for the Gap spot is a more subtle achievement.

Gap executives are too cool to discuss the marketing philosophy behind their too-cool subjects in ads for basic sportswear, but fashion followers know Anita Nall has arrived.

In July's Vanity Fair, hers is one of seven portraits shot for Gap by super-cool photographer Annie Leibovitz. Oh, yes, teen idol Luke Perry is also featured.

"I'm a great fan of Luke Perry, but I'm sorry to say I didn't meet him. I guess he was on a different studio schedule," Anita Nall explained between training laps at the Loyola pool. She spends lots of time in the water; the Gap ad shows her floating in a simple white pocket T-shirt.

"The photo was shot in a baby pool lined with black rubber. Ms. Leibovitz shot it from above from a ladder setup. She had two assistants who did my makeup and arranged lights. Ms. Leibovitz was very funny and nice before and after the shoot, but not during. She was very serious and demanding during the four hours it took," Ms. Nall remembered about her first paid modeling session.

"It was an exciting, new experience for a 14-year-old and certainly helped to build her poise and confidence," says her mother Marilyn Nall, "and the money she earned will go into a trust fund for college."

The young swimmer is becoming an old hand in front of the cameras. She also will be included in a fashion feature in the July 9 issue of Rolling Stone. What did she wear? She had to check out an advance copy to get the labels right. "I'm not really up on fashion. Here it is. I'm in a black beret by Kangol and jeans and an iridescent green coat by Armani. Is that a big deal?"

Yes, Anita, it is a big deal in fashion, but nothing compared to making the Olympic team.

Hey, buddy, if you've got something on your head other than hair (or scalp), you're part of a big fashion trend.

The Hat Institute of America reports that 1 billion men's hats were sold in the United States in 1980 and 2 billion were sold in 1989. Now hold onto your hats, folks: 3 billion were sold last year.

Many of these are, admittedly, the baseball caps worn these days by sports buffs, rappers and everyone else under 65. And some are chosen by people hiding out from recently discovered dangers emanating from the sun and/or ozone layer. But much of the new millinery is selected to enhance one's personality, or even add a bit of fantasy to a humdrum lifestyle.

In fact, rugged outdoor sportswear trends have strongly

influenced men's hats for the last two years, according to Tom Julian of the Men's Fashion Association. This fall, he sees functional earflaps, knit caps and visors as headwear trends.

Indiana Jones put his adventurous hat on millions of mundane nine-to-fivers in the '80s, and that, according to Jack Lambert of the J.J. Hat Center in New York City, was when men's headgear "took off."

Last spring, owning something in an animal pattern was a novelty. By fall, it will be unavoidable. Designers of everything from coats to lingerie in every price range have leapt on animal markings for fall.

Last week, accessories began to hit the stores in New York. The response, as one purveyor put it, has been unbelievable.

Bloomingdale's is barely able to keep one leap ahead of the demand for its leopard-printed chiffon scarfs, selling at $42. Meanwhile, belts, handbags, hats and hair accessories are selling at a fast clip.

While leopard markings are the most popular, ziggy black zebra stripes stenciled on white calf are moving in.

Bruno Magli's ankle-high calfskin boots with witchy pointed toes and sexy black stacked wooden heels have just emerged at Saks Fifth Avenue. They cost $265 a pair.

It takes one powerfully stylish woman to put a menagerie of these animal patterns together and make it work. Any woman, though, can add one touch of animal magnetism and know she's captured next fall's look.

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