Florence's Pitti Immagine Uomo isn't just the fashion world's biggest menswear bazaar. Twice a year, it also offers a chosen few designers the chance to spread their wings and do something a little less run of the mill than the customary catwalk. So we've seen some spectacular installations and arty happenings over the years (Gareth Pugh's outing tomorrow night promises to continue the tradition). Alberta Ferretti, invited to open Pitti's 79th edition last night, didn't go that route, but she did create an extravagant 30-piece collection exclusively for Florence, and she got to show it in the Chiesa di Santo Stefano al Ponte, a centuries-old Romanesque church that sure beat yer average fashion venue. Plus, she took a leaf out of Tom Ford's book and presented her clothes on a mix of models and friends, some of whom just happened to be recognizable-bordering-on-iconic. Like fashion's favorite septuagenarian Carmen Dell'Orefice, in a floor-length, felted gray wool suit with a lavish fur trim. Or proto-supe Marpessa, fresh off the plane from her home in the wilds of Ibiza (with a woodswoman tan to match), who worked a lamé skirt and a feather-trimmed lace blouse. Or Marisa Berenson, also in lamé, also fur-trimmed.
The enthusiastic reaction of the Florentine crowd suggested there were a lot of local heroines in the mix, too. Walking with them were relative youngsters like Camilla Belle, opening the show in a gray gown that counted as simple alongside the opulence that followed, and Poppy Delevingne, closing it in pure, virginal white. Not so pure was the ever-precocious Paz de la Huerta, the sheerness of whose dress was scarcely compromised by decorous patches of black lace. At the dinner that followed in the Palazzo Vecchio (if America once promised a chicken in every pot, the Renaissance clearly guaranteed Florence a palazzo in every piazza), the actress claimed to have modeled for Ferretti 15 years ago.
The evening benefited Queen Rania's Jordan River Foundation, which supports, said Ferretti, "the emancipation and innovation of all women." So her models also included a psychologist, a lawyer, and a researcher…and an understandably nervous Zani Gugelmann, on a catwalk for the first time in her life. But she nailed it with utter confidence, proving that, if it isn't already a woman's world, as the Foundation's Helen Al Uzaizi was enthusing on her way out of the show, it soon will be.