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Gucci: Alessandra Facchinetti did what she had to do. Whatever nerves the newly ascended Gucci designer may have felt in the days and weeks leading up to her maiden performance for the house, backstage on Thursday she seemed utterly cool and in control. But she must have felt the eyes of the fashion world upon her. After all the speculation, hype and dust-settling, she was about to publicly assume the mantle of one of the most successful designers of the last decade, whose final show was his best ever.

Facchinetti’s mandate was clear and specific from the start: to carry on at Gucci along the course established by Tom Ford. She started in the circular foyer of the show space at the hotel Diana Majestic where, instead of filling colossal urns with flowers, she had myriad orchids dripping from the center chandelier. Inside, the high-polish runway also looked very Fordian.

“I believe in [the Gucci look],” Facchinetti said during a visit to New York this summer. “I love Gucci. I love how it was before.” And while acknowledging the likelihood of a natural seasonal progression, she added, “that doesn’t mean that the woman is someone else. She’s still the same.”

The customer is the same, but the designer is not. Before the show, Facchinetti said her aim was to continue the deeply ingrained Gucci attitude established by Ford while making her first collection “less schematic, with a more real element.” Certainly the clothes retained that essential take-no-prisoners sexuality, as well as some familiar silhouettes. Facchinetti took very specific house standards and worked them her way — a move that should please retailers who may have worried about a sea change unsettling to consumers. Thus, the small jackets, low-slung pants and corseted constructions all got ample play. There were also super sexed-up, barely-there swimsuits, and even a sprinkle from above — tiny sparkles rather than rose petals — to announce the arrival of the racy evening section. Throughout, many of the clothes looked quite strong, and they clearly sent the message that, for now, at least, an aesthetic revolution is not part of the Gucci game plan. As for the accessories, while none of Frida Giannini’s newly softened shoulder bags leapt off the runway, they were lovely enough, as were the gold sandals with pebbled heels.

This story first appeared in the October 1, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Nevertheless, Facchinetti tried to pick up where Ford left off, and at times her ambition exceeded her experience. Her more complicated cuts — the kind it took Ford years to work up to — simply lacked that all-important Gucci polish. The other big point of departure: In her decision to avoid a major theme, Facchinetti probably made the right choice. But this made for a catch-22 of sorts, since much of the power of Ford’s work lay in the gutsy, over-arching statement he put forth each season.

With probably the toughest collection of her young career behind her, Facchinetti has begun the difficult task of establishing herself as a major industry force in her own right. In the meantime, she has served her house and its customers well under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Moschino: At some houses, joie de mode is not a trend, but a way of life. That’s the case at Moschino, where fueling fun through fashion — and then breaking the yucks down into smart, wearable pieces — has always been a core belief. Yet, within that philosophy, there’s plenty of range, and in the collection creative director Rosella Jardini showed on Thursday, she played down the overt jokes while emphasizing a joyful, feminine spirit.

The key look was a gypsy-Fifties starlet hybrid filled with bold prints, swishing skirts and bright white petticoats. These came layered, corseted and beribboned, sometimes finished off with charming sequined capelets and faux couture hats perched just so. There were ample digressions along the way, such as a waitress and matador, both ruffled up, and even a pretty Gibson girl in just her camisole and floor-sweeping slip. Some of these looks got witty animal appliqués, and virtually everything was decorated somehow, but seldom past the point of wearability. And in the midst of all the fluff and flowers, Jardini managed to work in just enough smart tailored pieces to remind her audience that Moschino goes both ways. Now that’s good, smart fun.

DSquared: There are so many reasons to want to dislike a DSquared show. First, there’s the crush at the door — good luck getting in. If you manage that, good luck getting your seat, because this is the only show in town where gate-crashers and sycophants sit, while note-taking editors are often banished to the floor. But that’s how scrappy designer twins Dean and Dan Caten like it. Creating a buzz with their over-the-top spectacles complete with major sets — this time a Malibu beach house pool included — and showing a sexed-up doppelgänger version of every serious look is their modus operandi.

The twins delivered plenty of what they are known for. A sharp dark denim high-waisted suit stitched in silver or the baby blue cotton tuxedo were both perfect for any “Charlie’s Angels”-era Farrah wannabe. Neon bikinis, shrunken macs in yellow or apple green, tarted-up cowgirl looks and derriere-baring minidresses are all staples at this house. The real news came in the form of some surprisingly grown-up fare, such as the embroidered caftan slit down the front. And how about those evening looks? A sea foam, chocolate, and grape cut-out gown, or a long-sleeved crystal minidress with a draped back à la Gucci looked good. It’s nice to see these boys grow up a bit. We just wish their audience would, too.