On the surface of it, Gucci is behaving as if nothing has changed. The audience turns up at the darkened theater Tom Ford created to house his shows—same towering floral display in the foyer, same drinks reception, same deep-pile carpeted runway. Yet Ford departed a year ago, time and fashion have shifted, and just by showing in the sexed-up nineties venue her former master established, Alessandra Facchinetti is setting herself up for invidious comparisons with a lost era, before the audience even sits down.

She made a determined start with a military march on the soundtrack and a blue-black silhouette carved out of high Napoleonic collar jackets, balloon-sleeve taffeta blousons, plunging ruffle-neck shirts, and a reissue of the skin-tight pants that were a Ford perennial. The detail in those jackets, bands of velvet or black-on-black embroideries of roses, presented a vixenish version of the dark, Russian vibe currently running through Milan. From there, though, Facchinetti realized she had to move forward. "I wanted a certain elegance and rigor, but I also wanted to find something more intimate," she explained. "The hardness, we already know about at Gucci. I wanted something more intimate and poetic, so I looked at Victorian and Empire style."

But what counts as intimate these days? Is it a high-collar dress with a big oval opening in the front to display the breasts? Is there poetry in an off-the-shoulder chiffon Marie Antoinette milkmaid neckline when combined with a torso tightly bandaged with lashings of jersey? It was in these moments that Facchinetti's difficulty in setting a new post-Ford agenda for Gucci showed. It came over better when she offered a less frantically worked red carpet Empire-line gown covered in a spider web of spangled tulle, but still, the specter of Ford's triumphal finales seemed to haunt this runway. Perhaps Facchinetti will eventually work her way toward the more gracefully feminine feeling she talked about, but that won't happen unless she stops carrying Gucci's recent history so heavily on her shoulders.