Just when fashion in Rome needed a dash of inspiration, Gucci's Frida Giannini comes along and throws a big party in a villa overlooking the Eternal City.
Tuesday night's event marked the 70th anniversary of the famed Gucci boutique near the Spanish Steps, and began with the presentation of the designer's 2009 cruise collection, usually shown in New York.
The five goddess gowns that closed the snappy jet-set show are in honor of Rome and will only be available in the Via Condotti boutique.
"Isn't Rome fantastic?" said the 36-year-old designer as she greeted some of her 300 guests, many who had come from afar, at a sit-down dinner after the show.
The 17th-century villa and its sumptuous gardens are part of the American Academy complex atop the Janiculum hill. Later 700 hip Roman young people joined the party and danced into the night to the live music of Goldfrapp.
Giannini wanted to pay tribute not only to her birthplace, but to the Roman school where she got her fashion education, The Academy of Costume and Fashion, and to her first job at Fendi, founded by five Roman sisters.
"I owe a lot to this city," she told The Associated Press.
The event was the buzz of the Rome couture "AltaRoma" week that ended Thursday.
Gala events are few and far between since the heydays of the 1960's, when such stars as Liz Taylor, Rita Hayworth and Audrey Hepburn, in town for filming, made Rome the high point of Italian fashion.
During the 1990s Rome had a second fashion moment, with the "Women under the Stars" gala summer event on the Spanish Steps, a fashion show that included the top names in Italian couture and ready-to-wear as well as foreign designer guests. That was televised live to many countries.
But despite attempts to revive the mood, in the past decade Rome couture has become a very local event.
This time more than 20 houses, including Gattinoni and Sarli, showed their latest collections in the halls of a former Medieval convent in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica, the same venue used last year by Valentino for his farewell to fashion.
The clothes were beautiful with sumptuous fabrics and grande soiree styles, and at times a little more affordable with the invention of `demi-couture' _ something between `haute couture' and 'ready to wear.' Mainly, however, the shows were about dresses for mother's garden party and her daughter's wedding.
The crowds reflected the runway, including plenty of ladies from wealthy families as well as TV starlets.
"We have to rekindle Rome's fashion fire," said Rome's new mayor Gianni Alemanno, a guest at the Gucci party.
The city and the province of Rome sponsored fashion week, and are looking for new ways to promote the "made in Rome" label. Among the ideas are a permanent venue for the shows, a fashion department at Rome's city university to train future designers and interaction between fashion and films.
But as Alemanno was meeting Wednesday with designers and reporters at the Campidoglio, Rome's historic city hall, across the Tiber at the convent site, designer Rafaella Curiel was steaming. The mayor's meeting had delayed her show for over an hour.
"This is the last time I'm showing here," said the Milanese designer, who for the past 25 years has brought her couture collections to Rome.