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Doldrums ahead of stunted Milan Fashion Week

MILAN – Milan Fashion Week kicks off Wednesday in an atmosphere of gloom and doom with some 10 fewer shows in the lineup because of the global financial crisis.

While 95 fashion houses staged shows in 2008, this year’s programme has attracted only 79. A total of 93 brands showed their summer 2009 collections here in September 2008.

"There are about 10 fewer fashion shows," the head of the Chamber of Fashion, Mario Boselli, admitted to reporters on the sidelines of a news conference presenting Fashion Week.

Some couturiers are responding to "signs of caution" from buyers planning to skip the shows, Boselli said. "They’re trying to economise."

Recalling that men’s collections were shown in January "in a crisis atmosphere with 20 percent fewer shows," Boselli insisted that "all the big fashion names" are in the women’s lineup – such as Giorgio Armani, Moschino, Gucci, Fendi and Versace.

The small fashion houses that are staying away meanwhile balk at admitting financial difficulties.

When asked by AFP, La Perla, a well-known lingerie brand that launched its ready-to-wear line in 2002, spoke of "strategic and not economic reasons," while AB Soul admitted that its absence was "more or less linked to budget cuts."

The Italian clothing sector – including textiles, leather, shoes and so on – has been hard hit by the downturn, raising the alarm last week over falling orders and appealing to the government for aid such as that enjoyed by the auto sector.

"For the past month and a half, all orders have been blocked," said Michele Tronconi, president of Italy’s Textile and Fashion Federation. "The situation is explosive."

Italy accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of the European textiles and clothing sector, he said, adding that the industry employs some 500,000 people in Italy and has a turnover of nearly EUR 54 billion.

"We estimate that our sector by itself will account for EUR 9.8 billion worth of Italy’s trade surplus (in the sector)," he said.

The economic development ministry has called a "roundtable" on Thursday for textile and clothing representatives.

The big guns in Italian fashion seem to be largely spared by the crisis so far.

Giorgio Armani last week inaugurated a huge "concept store" covering 4,000 square metres (43,000 square feet) on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Even so, "King" Giorgio told the Italian daily La Repubblica: "I didn’t feel like celebrating (the inauguration) with caviar. You can’t really, these days."

Florentine designer Roberto Cavalli, for his part, has announced a new five-floor store opening 7 March on Paris’s chic Faubourg Saint-Honore.

"It’s probably crazy while we’re going through this crisis," he told La Stampa. "But I was really keen on it. It’s been my dream."

AFP / Expatica