By  on February 18, 2009

FLORENCE — An additional Designer Collection pavilion at the stately 19th-century Villa Vittoria upped the fashion ante of last month’s Pitti W — Woman Precollection.

The new pavilion, located across the street from the original Dogana space, is dedicated to innovative designer brands. The third edition of the women’s show ran here concurrently with the men’s wear exhibition Pitti Uomo.

“Pitti W is expanding its scope,” said Agostino Poletto, deputy general manager of Pitti Immagine, which organizes the exhibition that showcased collections for pre-fall. “The event is growing and evolving…focusing on scouting and selection. [It enhances] Pitti W as a launchpad for innovative women’s fashion projects and brands with great potential.”

At Villa Vittoria, Alessandra Carta, who launched her brand, Carta E Costura, two years ago, said it was “a great show, which helps young designers become more visible internationally.”

Carta, who also works as a costume designer, said she tackles the bad economy by thinking short-term — not planning too far in advance so she can react quickly to the fast-changing environment and address immediate concerns. “Also, I work with young apprentices who share my passion for design, and this allows me to survive as a small emerging brand.”

Carta, who was scouted in 2007 by the Vogue-sponsored “Who Is on Next?” talent search, showed dramatically sculpted dresses, emphasizing the back with bows and delicately structured folds. “My clothes have a retro flavor,” said Carta, pointing to her experience working on period films.

Also at Villa Vittoria, Isabella Tonchi digitally revisited ethnic patterns and costumes to make them more contemporary. “These patterns are reproduced on delicate and precious fabrics, such as silk organza,” said Tonchi. “This is a nonhippie, more elegant kind of ethnic style.”

The Florentine designer played with graphic and black-and-white motifs. “Shapes are deliberately simple to offset the patterns,” she said, pointing to handmade hourglass dresses.

Retail prices average between $600 and $700 for a dress and between $2,000 and $3,000 for a cashmere coat. Tonchi said she was pleased with her business in the U.S., where the brand is available at Barneys. “I’m more well-known there than in my own home country,” she quipped.

Stephan Janson showed his “Jersey de Janson” line, revolving around precisely cut and draped jersey. His soft, feminine dresses came in a vivid range of colors, from emerald to ruby. “This is a great location and the selection of brands is quite exclusive,” said Margherita Mancini, who heads communications for the brand.

Back at the Dogana location, a few steps away from Pitti Uomo and where Pitti W made its debut a year ago, Herno Donna showed down jackets inspired by the cobranded Herno capsule collection for men designed by Neil Barrett. “This is an homage to that collaboration,” said Herno area manager Giorgia Gianfaldoni, showing trenches and sequin bomber jackets made with a special technique devised by Herno: the feathers are injected directly into the polyester coat, making it extra light and warm. These pieces came in a bright color palette ranging from tangerine to plum.

Camalgori.Lux showed luxurious double wool coats and trenches sewn by hand. “These items are hits in the U.S.,” said Riccardo Collina, export manager at the company, which was founded 37 years ago in Bologna, Italy. “Customers are educated about the double technique there,” said Collina, who praised the exhibition for offering “novel, up-to-date and highly selected collections.” The executive said it would be a mistake to focus on basic looks at such a challenging time.

Kiton also focused on luxury materials, showcasing sable-lined cashmere trenches or silk-lined double cashmere jackets made by hand in an earthy brown, soft gray and turtledove palette.

Some executives, like Mariagiovanna Paone, sales manager for Kiton’s women’s division, said they would have liked to have seen more foreign visitors at the show.

“Also, this show is too detached from the Pitti Uomo location,” said Paone. “It would work better if it were less fractioned.”

Eleonora Pujia, communication manager at Coccinelle, which showcased handbags reproducing vintage patterns by Biba’s Barbara Hulanicki, said visitors at Pitti W “are very selected. There are fewer curious people just looking around and more interested buyers.” Pujia also conceded that there were not many visitors from abroad,but said the Italian buyers who did make it to the show were the most relevant in the country.

A spokeswoman at Henry Beguelin, which showed trenches and jackets with guepiere sleeves, and soft, roomy bags in washed deerskin, concurred, saying there were more Italians — as well as Russians and Ukrainians — compared with Americans and Far Easterners in past editions.

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