Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — Alberta Ferretti is hoping to win over a lot more fans like Andie MacDowell.
The striking actress was one of the 100 or so in the fashionable flock who migrated to Bergdorf Goodman’s flagship last Wednesday night for Ferretti’s first-ever personal appearance. The event coincided with the Bergdorf’s debut of Ferretti’s 10-year-old signature line.
“I’ve been a big fan of Alberta’s clothing for years,” said MacDowell, who noted with a hint of apology in her voice that she was not wearing a Ferretti creation that evening.
“I wore Ferretti to the Academy Awards, and I was wearing her clothing when I bumped into her on the street this afternoon,” MacDowell gushed. “I wear her things all the time.”
With Bergdorf’s picking up Ferretti’s signature collection this fall, the Italian designer believed it was time to strike a higher profile in the U.S. In a return to her roots, she has decided to begin by working the store circuit. “At the start of my career, my first experience was opening a boutique,” Ferretti related. “I learned that the way to understand the most and do best in a market is to face the final customer.”
Ferretti is “not very well known in the U.S.,” said Bergdorf’s president Dawn Mello. “She’s a bit of a secret who will be discovered by American women.”
Ferretti also keeps busy as vice chairman of Aeffe SpA, the Milan-based company that produces her line. Aeffe, which has a New York office, also manufactures collections for Moschino, Rifat Ozbek, Jean Paul Gaultier and, beginning next spring, Narciso Rodriguez.
Bergdorf’s scooped up Ferretti’s fall confections because, explained Mello, “they are modern yet have an aspect of glamour that is right for the times.”
Ferretti’s points of sale will multiply next spring when several concept shops for her Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti diffusion line bow in the U.S. One will be in Bergdorf’s flagship, said Michelle Stein, vice president of sales and promotions at Aeffe USA Inc. She didn’t specify other sites.
“Sales of Philosophy and of the signature line both have doubled over the last two seasons, and we’re trying to capitalize on the momentum,” Stein said. The two collections contribute about 25 percent of Aeffe’s volume in the U.S., where Moschino is “a huge business for us,” she added. U.S. retailers carrying Ferretti include Saks and Neiman’s.
Ferretti’s American agenda also features plans to open freestanding boutiques similar to the shop launched on London’s Sloane Street last spring. Ferretti’s forces began scouting in the SoHo section here last week, aiming to open the designer’s first U.S. store next fall. “The ideal would be for the [SoHo] shop to house the signature line, the diffusion line and a cafe,” Stein said.
Besides the London store, Ferretti has freestanding boutiques in Milan, Rome and Capri.
In Bergdorf’s view, the late Nineties are also well suited for the elaborately detailed jewelry and home furnishings of Tony Duquette, a big-time movie set designer who worked with the legends of Thirties Hollywood. Duquette, 93, was among the revelers at Ferretti’s fete, Mello explained, because the store next month will launch a shop on the fifth floor housing his jewelry, objets d’art and furnishings.
“He’s in sync with the trend to embellish things after a period of minimalism,” Mello said of the designer, who sported a straw hat and intricately carved walking stick. “He’s at the extreme other end of the design spectrum.”

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