On a chilly night in Florence, the temperature is turned up inside the 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio, as top models strut down the catwalk one after another. They're dressed at first in sharp, well-cut, masculine suits - double-breasted, charcoal hues with pushed-up sleeves, then in chic, tailored white or black ensembles cinched at the waist with glimpses of snakeskin. Finally, come gloriously silky slip dresses, generous drapings of fur and floor-length evening gowns. And black leather - impeccably cut and plenty of it.
Slicked-back hair and ruby red lips set a seductive tone. Top models Lindsey Wixson, Liya Kebede and Sigrid Agren have all flown in for noted Italian designer Ermanno Scervino's pre-autumn 2013 womenswear collection, showcased at Pitti Uomo along with his men's autumn-winter 2013-14 collection.
"The collections complement each other," says the self-taught Scervino. "The men's line gives something to the women's and the women's gives something to the men's - together they represent my spirit that I want to communicate."
Scervino is not a designer who wants his clothes to outshine the women in them. The collection for women oozes distinctive luxury and Italian workmanship. Sophistication is key and the fit is mature and elegant. Outfits include a long, ivory slip gown with a low draped back, pink ash silks and a sporty, light, powder-blue parker jacket with fur trim, worn over a matching silky gown.
Scervino likes to keep a close eye on all the technical aspects of his luxury label. His new headquarters is in Tuscany, tucked into a hill close to Florence, which he calls home. After moving between London, Paris and New York in his youth, it was the quality of Italian and, in particular, Florentine craftsmanship that captured his imagination when he went into fashion.
In 2007 he opened a new centre that houses research and development laboratories as well as a knitwear factory and workshop - all under one roof, so he could have total control over every detail of his garments. A year later came a new showroom on Via Manzoni in Milan, housing his women's, men's, underwear, beachwear and children's collections.
"The evolution of style over the years has changed because of the tendencies of the people, but I take great care in keeping the details that distinguish the brand," he says.
Although the designer's name might not have the same clout in Asia as Italian labels such as Prada and Gucci, which have aggressively pursued overseas expansion, there are indications that Scervino is gaining a following among Chinese customers. In half an hour of being in his store, half a dozen Chinese women have come in to browse.
"I want to do a fashion show in Shanghai," says Scervino. "We are selling in some multibrand stores in Taiwan and Hong Kong and not really in mainland China yet, but there is a big plan to expand there."
Scervino gained fame in his native country with his "sports couture" signature, with beautifully tailored and draped items inspired by the shape of sportswear but applied to luxury womenswear. "Before long, that spirit, and that specific silhouette, allowed my label to become famous - to go all over the world and into the major shops," he says.
"I think that to be called the sports couture designer is a plus for me, as it's something that people recognise. Of course, many other labels now are doing this, but for me it doesn't matter because this is my DNA. And, of course, every season I need to find a new way to be avant-garde compared to the others."