The first designer to showcase their line at Pitti Immagine #79 was Alberta Ferretti - first of three, that is, with Italian label Trussardi 1911 next and British designer Gareth Pugh to close. Given the massive cost and effort of creating Pitti-specific collections, not to mention the hoopla of staging them, particularly in an unfamiliar city without the climate-controlled showrooms of Milan, what is the draw? One imagines that the opportunity to create a unique spectacle freed from the relentless pressure of a fashion week schedule is pretty heady for most designers.
Certainly Alberta Ferretti grasped it with both hands, showing her collection in the deconsecrated seventeenth-century Santo Stefano al Ponte church, to a backdrop of live music and on an array of 'real women'. Then again, 'real women' for Ferretti are Hollywood superstars for the rest of us - Marisa Berensen and veteran supermodel Carmen Dell' Orefice were just two of the bold-faced line-up.
If that sounds fantastical, it seems Ferretti intended the collection to be as well, veering away from everyday wearability into an unabashed opulence. It was more Renaissance grandee than Hollywood starlet, with sinuous, floor-length gowns of tulle and georgette scattered with pearls, opera coats in metallic cloque or ombre wool banded in fur, and layers of chiffon frothed with feathers and crusted with lace in Tuscan shades of mocha, cappuccino and rich gold. The grandeur of Ferretti's surroundings evidently influenced her, as perhaps did the fact that Pitti Immagine is predominantly a trade showcase of menswear - there was nothing manly about this offering of ostentatious occasionwear. The technique in those clothes were dazzling, more alta mood than ready-to-wear, although the most striking pieces were the simplest: the way heavy felted wool was cut to fall as sensually across the body as silk-crepe, for example, while Orefice's outfit of ankle-length skirt and mink-trimmed dolman-sleeved wool jacket seemed a lesson in how to dress gracefully for evening at any age.
Ferretti is a dab hand at these kind of games - she made her name with romantically diaphanous chiffon frocks, perfect for anyone looking to indulge a 'Room With A View' fantasy of belle époque loveliness. Maybe that's why nothing she offered tonight felt especially new - then again, this show wasn't about moving Ferretti into new territory. It was about celebrating Italian fashion, and indeed her approach to it - more poetic than other hands, but this time with an all-out glamour that read as distinctly Italian.