Ballantyne’s new creative director, Dawidh di Firmo, is well aware that the brand’s DNA isn’t about girly ruches.

That said, his debut collection for Ballantyne melds the label’s tradition in a more feminine manner with silk crepe dresses, form-hugging cashmere sweaters and multicolored knit dresses with knife-pleated skirts.

“To me, Ballantyne means color, tactile textures, geometry and details,” said di Firmo, “and I wanted to transpose the men’s wear elements into the women’s wear.”

The designer worked a back-to-the-roots color palette with shades of purple, from rose to aubergine, that were inspired by the heather surrounding Ballantyne’s Scottish facilities.

Di Firmo also modernized Ballantyne’s iconic diamond pattern by re-creating the geometric motif with dots, zigzags and dashes. Producing a fully fashioned cashmere blazer was also time-consuming, and on the intarsia side, the designer created a modern rose pattern. The intarsia is a Ballantyne specialty that is handwoven by craftsmen who can only use the looms after a two-year training period. The intarsia products retail from $1,500 to $2,000.

After graduating from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, the 34-year-old di Firmo landed at Marni and Bottega Veneta. Most recently, he was a senior women’s wear designer at Prada.

— Alessandra Ilari


It may be a skirt and dress kind of season, but that’s not discouraging Metradamo.

The 30-year-old pants specialist that built a reputation on tailored and plush trousers recently changed ownership and now that Caterina Cecarini sits in the creative saddle, it’s bound to raise the hip quotient.

“I wanted to maintain Metradamo’s attention to spotting the changing times and keeping to a modern, no-fuss look,” said Cecarini, 30.

Her debut collection spotlights mannish styles with a Thirties and Forties vibe, as well as taking inspiration from Swinging London in the Sixties. The waist is high and the silhouettes are ample and fluid.

Pastel-colored prints are also a key element, along with lace details and pleats.

Sales are expected to reach 8.5 million euros, or $12 million, this year with a 20 percent increase budgeted for 2009. Wholesale prices range from $100 to $180.

In the U.S., Metradamo is carried at Zoom in Southampton, N.Y.; Nancy & Co. in New York, and Avant Garde in Los Angeles.

— A.I.


Backstory: While studying ancient literature at Università degli Studi in Milan, Gabriele Colangelo won a scholarship in a contest organized by the Camera Nazionale della Moda that landed him a job at Ittierre to design the Versace Jeans women’s collection. He soon moved to the main Versace line, followed by stints at Just Cavalli and at Mariella Burani Group. He launched a namesake collection last February and just won the September edition of Who Is On Next? organized by Vogue Italia. His show is on Sept. 25.

Why: Rather than going to hip-hop or futuristic exploits for inspiration, Colangelo takes his cue from his classics studies. He reads Latin and Greek poetry and has a predilection for pure, lean and fluid shapes that he describes as “very Halston.”

What: This season’s proclivity for the classics comes from Hiroshiga, a 19th-century Japanese artist who depicts landscapes through iconographies of full-blossom magnolias.

Colangelo’s interpretation is obtained with cascades of resin that create stylized branches or, alternatively, with applications and precious embroideries representing magnolia branches.

The linearity of his silhouettes is balanced by crystals or opaque hexagonal beads scattered randomly. Exploiting his family’s fur workshop, Colangelo produced a razed mink cape that resembles cashmere. Wisteria pink, dark gray and white are the predominant colors.

Buy It: Luisa Via Roma, Florence; Lane Crawford, Hong Kong; Beams, Tokyo.

— A.I.

Francesco Scognamiglio

After years working to achieve a stylistic maturity and consolidate his business, Francesco Scognamiglio is on the rise. His ascent got an extra boost when Madonna picked a sheer black ruched shirt to wear in her “Give It To Me” video, on the CD’s cover and on the billboards promoting the “Sticky and Sweet” tour. Scognamiglio’s sales quadrupled to an anticipated $3.8 million this year from $969,000 in 2007.

How has your career changed since Madonna wore one of your outfits?

Francesco Scognamiglio: I became a Madonna fan at age eight, so you can imagine my euphoria and emotion when Arianne Philips [Madonna’s stylist] selected a look for her tour from the fall collection. It’s even more rewarding when there’s no product placement behind her choice. I’ve always been more attracted by international celebrities than Italian ones, so I’m very proud that even Angelina Jolie, Cristina Ricci and Jennifer Aniston wear my clothes.

WWD: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

F.S.: It’s serious and dramatic. The woman I imagine is both androgynous and feminine, a sort of contemporary warrior with a strong personality but also respectful of tradition. My staples are pants and jackets with a sartorial appeal and I love shirts because I see them as protective armor.

WWD: Any woman or designer you’re particularly inspired by?

F.S.: First and foremost, my mother. I was devastated when she recently passed away because she was a major point of reference. She inspired my fashion sense. When I was younger and we went out with her, I was always so impressed by the compliments she received about her elegance, her way of dressing, her natural style. In terms of designers, instead, I esteem Riccardo Tisci [creative director at Givenchy] and I have a great memory of Gianni Versace.

WWD: Last year you signed a license for production and distribution with Kabi Srl. What has this meant in terms of growth and image?

F.S.: It’s a great satisfaction because it’s a guarantee for retailers that are lauding the quality and our deliveries — which are actually early. Before this partnership, everything was so much more limited.

WWD: What’s on tap for spring?

F.S.: It’s the Thirties mixed with the Eighties and a color palette inspired by birds of paradise. Shapes are fitted and slim with crystal embroidery, even on chain mail. Some looks are topped off with two hats designed by Philip Treacy. Fabrics are traditional — silk twills and gauze, but detailed with latex.

— A.I.


Who: Educated at Los Angeles’ Fashion Center Trade Technical College, Christian Weber, an Austrian who comes from a family of tailors, has been on fashion’s radar for his experiences at Wolford and Versace. In 2005, Weber was tapped as creative director and brand manager of BCBG Max Azria, followed by a creative director post at Rock & Republic. Weber went solo in 2007, launching his Collection no. 1 in the U.S. Collection no. 3 bows with the help of Italian textile manufacturer Marini Industrie, which also controls the brand through its RMCW Srl company.

As guest designer of White Club, a nonprofit organization that supports emerging talents, Christian Weber will present his first collection backed by his new owners on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27.

Weber, whose lucky number is 3, puts his family’s heritage to good use, with his sartorial cuts and innovative take on volume and shape. The designer is animated by a desire to create a cosmopolitan, luxurious brand and was originally inspired by the Wiener Werkstätte, or Viennese Workshops, artistic movement, spearheaded by Gustav Klimt, Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser.

What: For spring, Weber has fun with “Barbarella”-style dresses in linen or cotton, puff shorts or kerchief dresses. Pop Art patterns lighten up Eighties summer dresses, and openwork suede sport jackets add a touch of tough-chic streetwear to the mix. Average wholesale price points are $ 350.

Buy It: David Lawrence and Giorda E, Seattle; Amemi, Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Gary’s, Newport Beach, Calif.; Oceana Rain, San Francisco; Jeneral Store, New York; Chloé Lane, Park City, Utah; Kaje, Beverly Hills; Holt Renfrew, Canada.

— Luisa Zargani


Backstory: Having studied art at Milan’s prestigious Accademia Di Belle Arti in Brera, Roberta Furlanetto earned a long-standing collaboration with Christian Lacroix. Her innovative use of fabrics at the couture level brought her to work at Ungaro, Dior and Azzedine Alaïa. She launched her namesake collection for fall 2006.

Why: Furlanetto’s feminine, structured and form-fitting looks make for a sophisticated yet practical collection that borders on couture. The designer’s expert cuts and precise silhouettes are complemented by her knowledge of fabrics and use of color.

What: For spring, Furlanetto experiments with graphic details and lightness, showing dresses in cotton organza marked by horizontal ribbings. Stripes are the collection’s leitmotif, whether bold or faint, opaque or see-through, shiny or matte, contrasting in fil coupé or jacquard. A standout look? An organza top with ruches and asymmetric petals contrasting with a Japanese cotton jacket with a bodicelike structure. She will present her collection at 21 Via Ponte Vetero on Sept. 21 from 4 to 8:30 p.m.

How Much: Dresses wholesale from 240 to 650 euros ($336 to $910); trenches wholesale from 500 to 650 euros ($700 to $910); Jackets range from 310 to 595 euros ($434 to $833).

Buy It: Giò Moretti, Milan; Luisa Via Roma, Florence; 10 Corso Como, Tokyo; Louis, Boston; H. Lorenzo, Los Angeles; Wilkes Bashford, San Francisco.

— L.Z.

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