Sep 22, 2009
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Milan fashion week to open under economic cloud

Sep 22, 2009

ROME, Sept 22, 2009 (AFP) - Milan Fashion Week kicks off Wednesday 23 September under an economic cloud as a sharp drop in exports of Italian ready-to-wear women's apparel has put tens of thousands of jobs on the line.

Photo: AFP

More than 90 fashion houses will show ready-to-wear 2010 spring-summer collections in Milan, the third of the four major fashion capitals to do so after New York and London and ahead of Paris.

A study published last week by fashion trade federation Sistema Moda Italia said Italian exports of women's ready-to-wear shrank by 25.3 percent to Russia, 26.8 percent to the United States, 12 percent to Switzerland and 18 percent to Japan in the first five months of 2009.

The steepest drops in sales within the European Union were to Spain, down 16.7 percent, and Britain, down 15 percent.

SMI chief Michele Tronconi called for "economic policy action, with measures and interventions by the government to support the sector in the coming months."

SMI, which represents some 60,000 businesses in the clothing sector, said some 56,000 jobs were at risk from among the sector's 510,000 workers.

As tradition dictates, Elena Miro, specialist in styles for larger women, will open the Milan showcase.

Running through September 29, the catwalk extravaganza will feature top names including Giorgio Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi.

Last week in New York, fashionistas were resolutely upbeat despite sagging sales.

Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion, blamed the media, not the recession, for unenthusiastic shoppers.

"It's the media that have discouraged the consumers. As journalists you should tell them to go back and buy. It's about fashion, which transforms your life, which makes people look at you, notice you, that's what fashion is about," she said.

There has been nothing but bad news for fashion over the last year, a litany of store closings, buyouts, firings and predictions that consumers may never reprise their old spendthrift ways.

London meanwhile enjoyed a boost this season with the return of big name British designers such as Matthew Williamson, Burberry Prorsum, Pringle of Scotland, Jonathan Saunders and Antonio Berardi.

Because it has less economic clout than its rivals, London Fashion Week faced the risk of being bypassed by buyers and journalists intent on cutting costs.

Burberry was the first to announce its return home to honour London Fashion Week's 25th anniversary year.

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