Milan and a New Day at Ferre

Gianfranco Ferre '09 (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

The Milan spring 2009 fashion shows began over the weekend, with the first of the major design houses unveiling their collections Sunday. I actually arrived in Milan on Thursday. But I left immediately for a few days of Zen time in Capri because I'm never one to turn down an opportunity for self-pampering.

Things would have been more relaxing if I had been up to date on the drama unfolding in Italy over Alitalia. For Americans who fret about the situation with airlines in the United States, things couldn't be worse for those who fly Alitalia. It could pretty much vanish in the coming days because of its poor financial condition, protesting unions and a variety of European Union rules that prevent various obvious options for saving it. Last I checked, Alitalia is only flying until the airline runs out of fuel it has on hand.

When I checked in at the Naples airport, which is the closest to Capri, the agent behind the desk could not have been less interested. I honestly think I could have checked a moose with my luggage and she would not have blinked.

Capri is ridiculously stunning and has more designer shops jammed into a tiny amount of square footage that I've ever seen. I spent the greater part of three days debating which of several Prada wallets I should buy as my own wallet was literally falling apart in my hands. Never mind that said wallet is practically empty because the economy sucks, the euro remains mighty and I am not independently wealthy.

The Emporio Armani collection (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

My first show in Milan was Emporio Armani, which was followed by the Gianfranco Ferre show. The Ferre show was a big deal because it was the first collection by the house's new designers, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, who rose to fame with the 6267 line.

To celebrate the house's new beginning, there was a dinner at Da Giacomo, a tasty little restaurant at #6 via Pasquale Sottocorno. The food was divine and the guests were a mix of editors and retailers from all over the world. One of the people at my table was a fellow named Stefano. I didn't catch his last name because he was on the other side of the table and there was quite a din in the room. I could have double-checked before I left, but sorry, I was practically ready to tip over from the constant stream of wine that kept flowing into my glass.

Stefano is in charge of creating a commercial network in which to sell the clothes. He's the guy with the hardest job: He's got to move the merch. He's only been at Ferre for about a year. Before that he was at Just Cavalli. So for a while he was selling sex; now he has to sell glamour.

If you're wondering why you haven't seen a Ferre frock very often in the U.S., it's because the distribution there has basically been non-existent. The store that was in D.C. closed some time ago. The LA store needs a renovation. And so on.

So once again a fashion line is trying to rebuild itself after its founder has passed away. Ferre has found a couple of talented designers. Now let's see if Stefano and the rest of the executive team can help them make magic.

By Robin Givhan |  September 22, 2008; 6:00 AM ET Milan
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