Models sit during the Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show, one of the most coveted tickets in an otherwise flailing Fashion Week as top US talent decamps to Europe - AFP / ANGELA WEISS
Bottega Veneta immersed New York Friday in the art of Italian living, transforming the American Stock Exchange Building into a chic home with a roaring fire, as models sashayed down the runway in pajamas and sipped wine.
The Italian luxury label's Big Apple show, to celebrate the opening of its largest boutique in the world on Madison Avenue, was one of the most coveted tickets in an otherwise flailing Fashion Week as top US talent decamps to Europe.
It was the first runway show in the historic Renaissance Revival building, the ex-headquarters of the American Stock Exchange, reimagined as a cozy chic luxury apartment that advertised understated Italian elegance -- precisely the wares now on sale on Madison.
"The Italian art of living begins and ends in the home," advised the program notes. Guests were given a fake newspaper feting the new store, referred to as "Maison," just to make sure they got the point.
The set was complete with fireplace, easy chairs and elegant dining room, where at the end of the show, models poured into the living area, chatting and sipping wine.
The show itself pulled out all the stops, sending out 65 models in different looks, headlined by Kaia Gerber and Gigi Hadid.
Actresses Priyanka Chopra and Julianne Moore sat front row, Moore making it a fashion hat trick after attending Tom Ford and Tory Burch.
The fall/winter 2018 collection was very sleek, sophisticated and luxurious -- a masterclass in understated European elegance at the expense of headline-grabbing bling with not a puffer coat in sight.
- Herrera farewell -
There were silk pajamas in sumptuous jewel colors worn under exquisitely tailored winter coats. There was animal print and patchworks of color blocks, yet it was never gaudy, never kitsch.
It was an explosion of color -- warm tones for winter, yellow, red and orange, with pointy ankle boots and a copious amount of bags to highlight a mainstay of their global business empire.
CEO Claus-Dietrich Lahrs played down talk of any crisis at Fashion Week, although the relocation to New York was one-time only.
"New York has its place, Milan has its place and Paris has its place," he told AFP.
With 270 shops around the world and another due to open later this year in Tokyo, Lahrs was also confident that bricks-and-mortar shops would survive the e-commerce revolution.
"In the luxury market, the client wants to be known personally," he explained.
Earlier in the day, first lady favorite Carolina Herrera signaled the end of an era, announcing that she would step down from her four-decade-old label and after her own runway show on Monday.
The Venezuelan-born 79-year-old said she had appointed US designer Wes Gordon to take over as creative director after she takes the bow at her fall/winter 2018 fashion show at the Museum of Modern Art.
The London-trained Gordon, who from 2010 to 2016 presented his eponymous womenswear collection in New York, has been creative consultant at Carolina Herrera for a year.
- 'Optimism' -
Tory Burch, the doyenne of preppy chic meets boho insouciance, showcased breezy optimism in a field of pink carnations for a post-#MeToo world.
The stunning set transformed a space under a flyover into a field of 14,000 flowers sprouting from springy moss, light streaming through the windows and the Chamber Orchestra of New York playing Vivaldi.
Her fall/winter 2018 collection was romantic, whimsical and partly inspired by Lee Radziwill, the 84-year-old indomitable American socialite and younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
And if there was a hot pink bow blouse and matching skirt, any allusion to the pink pussy hats worn by women marching against the Trump administration was pure coincidence: turns out Radziwill has a hot pink couch in her Paris living room.
"I promise that wasn't in my mind. It really wasn't," laughed 51-year-old Burch, worth an estimated $600 million according to Forbes.
"I'm a big supporter of women and women's issues but that is probably not how I would demonstrate that," she added. "I love the color and pink, we were referencing Lee Radziwill... she had a pink couch."
But Burch is only too happy to see positivity blowing in the winds as the United States navigates the sexual harassment watershed.
"You can read optimism into the whole mood of the collection," she told AFP. "That is a definite direction," she said.