Published June 12, 2012
PARIS – For the first time in its history, the French capital's iconic Louvre Museum opened up its storied arcades Tuesday to fashion: a catwalk show by Italian house Salvatore Ferragamo.
Proof enough of the unique setting of this collection lay with the celebrity-filled front row — from actresses Freida Pinto and Leighton Meester to Oscar-winner Hilary Swank.
The mid-season resort show was in pure celebration of a brand that began as a leather shoemaker for Hollywood's first stars — and went on to become a household name for ready-to-wear, both for men and women.
The Florence-based house was granted unprecedented access to an impressive 120 meters of the Denon Wing arcade of the almost 900-year-old building thanks to its sponsorship of the Louvre's current exhibition of "The Virgin and Saint Anne," the last painting by Florentine master Leonardo da Vinci.
The Louvre is also respectfully tipping its hat to Florence: a city which — like Paris — has been a pole of creativity across the centuries.
But how can Ferragamo — a house that prides itself on being "Made in Italy" — convincingly show in Paris' most famous museum?
The key was through molding the show to the environment, Creative director Massimiliano Giornetti told journalists, saying he aimed to integrate French fashion techniques in his work along with the Louvre's aesthetic.
"The clothes' light colored palette is on purpose and in tune with the Louvre's light colored stone," Giornetti said Tuesday.
Accordingly, cool beige white leathers filed down the catwalk, melting into warmer honey colored pelts.
It was impressive how Giornetti — in often loose, gentle silhouettes — matched exactly the limestone palette inside the Louvre, common in buildings across Paris.
Luckily the pressure that CEO Michele Norsa said the house was under by showing in such an iconic place did not rub off on the clothes: overall relaxed and highly wearable fits.
One comfy-looking honey-colored mini dress was a winner for Giornetti featuring stitched beige leather patches that looked like honeycomb.
But there was a downside to the relaxed look: in one soft cream jacket with thick leather stitching, the lack of structure gave the garment a slightly clumsy movement.
On bold display were the traditions of Parisian fashion history all mixed up in a fashion cocktail served up with a dash Italian leather savoir-faire.
With one knee length cream dress with myriad organic looking leather appliques there was a nod to the Parisian haute couture, as the designer intended — highly detailed clothes, with intricate artisanal stitching.
"With the richness of detail," Giornetti said with pride, "it could be an Italian (answer to) haute couture."
Another example was a sleeveless and cocktail dress with plunging neckline that was sewn fastidiously with metallic appliques.
They coiled brilliantly in architectural Art Deco patterns reminiscent of the Musee d'Orsay, a stone's throw from the venue.
Despite the lofty references, the sparkling numbers, twinned with knee-high snake boots, ensured that Ferragamo — on his first, unforgettable trip to the city of lights — didn't forget to have fun too.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP