ITALY is also primed for its share of the international fashion set. Salvatore Ferragamo has just hosted a luncheon for celebrity photographer Bruce Weber at the Palazzo Feroni Spini in Florence and a cocktail party for 1,000 people to mark the inauguration of the first Florence Biennale, a cultural project with the theme of 'Time and Fashion'. The event intends to tie together elements from fashion, art, photography and architecture. The Biennale runs until December 15 and will cover seven major exhibitions all around the city's palaces and museums - including the Bruce Weber retrospective at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Other attractions are exhibitions devoted to designer Emilio Pucci, 19 other fashion designers and superstar Elton John. Scala gala ONE of the highlights of Milan's fashion week is a tribute to the legendary La Scala with a show dedicated to 'Weddings at the Opera'. The retrospective will feature all the wedding costumes used by the opera house over the past 50 years ... and is clearly designed more for culture buffs than superficial fashion-types. Ferre passe IN PARIS everyone awaits news of who will replace Gianfranco Ferre who is to quit Christian Dior after his last catwalk show. Names bandied about previously included American Marc Jacobs and 'enfant terrible' Jean Paul Gaultier but the final decision is a closely guarded secret. underarm tactics EVEN if Gaultier doesn't make the grade to head the venerable couture house of Christian Dior, the madman of fashion has his hands full doing other things - like making deodorant sticks. Gaultier has just launched an underarm treatment which is called simply 'Le Male'. It contains, for some reason, 'horsetail extract' as well as something called 'Farnesol Plus' which is supposed to 'fight against little, unappreciated odours'. The deodorant is part of a series that men are supposed to use to help them look, smell and feel better; Gaultier described the scent of the range as 'carnal' and says that in its using, 'the man has become 'Le Male' ' ... which is really the last thing any of us wants. Gaultier is not the only designer trying a new approach to men's fragrances. Donna Karan calls her just-launched 'Unleaded' a 'bracing skin spray', which uses something called 'suede accord', tobacco, basil, sage and cardamom. a real gem ONE of the star attractions at the Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair that ended yesterday was 'The Jewelled Gold Decor Set of the Immortals Offering the Birthday Congratulations'. That's the snappy name of a set of 11 sculptures of Chinese deities, weighing 1,000 kilos and set with tens of thousands of precious gems. Valued at more than $200 million, the piece is owned by a mystery Hong Kong man who authorised a local investment company to exhibit it at the trade fair 'for the viewing pleasure of Hong Kong people'. The current owner has admitted that any prospective buyer 'would not be given the brush off', a spokesman said. An auction is in the works. (With pic) change in store MORE changes are afoot at Lane Crawford, which last week decided to finally shut its loss-making Singapore store. Former women's accessories and footwear buyer Peter Harris has been put in charge of the entire women's department, largely replacing long-standing merchandising manager Shirley Chu. The appointment comes at a time when the chain, beset with financial woes, is undergoing a revamp. The unimpressive Cafe Vogue within its Central store is being made sleek and chic and a designer florist is soon to open (shades of Joyce perhaps?). Lane Crawford head Balbina Wong, pleaded patience. 'It took Dickson Poon four years to turn Harvey Nichols around so why are we expected to do it overnight? It's going to take time, but I'm confident about the next couple of years,' she said.