How weird, exciting, and unimaginably stressful it must have been for Alessandra Facchinetti to send out her first collection for Gucci. In the very same high-gloss venue so recently and dramatically vacated by Tom Ford, this was the evening on which the 32-year-old understudy had to take her first steps as an ingénue—all in the glare of worldwide publicity, and under the weight of immense corporate and creative expectations.

In the event, Facchinetti didn't veer very far from the Ford formula. Her opening look, a dusty-brown safari jacket cinched over a form-hugging fringed and tasseled woven skirt, gave a hint of her seasonal theme: a touch Indian, but transformed into a statement of Italianate sexuality. What followed—the brick-red crocodile cutaway fashion-rocker jackets; corseted bustiers; skinny pants; clinging, highly worked opaque/sheer paneled dresses; and skimpily provocative Swarovski-jeweled backless pieces—clearly carried the same stamp as Ford-era design, if not quite moving at the same adrenalin-surging pace.

So what had the assistant been contributing, and what was the master's responsibility? That's an issue that can only be clarified over time. At present, it's enough to ask of Facchinetti and her co-workers that they show a pragmatic ability to keep a mega-brand going. That they did—though the fact that this collection is now being directed from a female-led Milanese design room (relocated from Ford's London base) is certain to make a difference of some kind.

Meanwhile, another debutante was showing her hand this evening: Frida Giannini, the young woman responsible for designing the great bags, shoes, belts, and sunglasses that came down the runway. Because accessories are the foundation of Gucci's global success, the highly desirable velvet, leather, and gold-enamel-studded Pelham bag deserves at least an equal share of the limelight.