Feb 19, 2014
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Swinging '60s Gucci opens hopeful Milan fashion week

Feb 19, 2014

MILAN, Italy - Gucci opened Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday with a homage to the '60s as the new chief executive of Italy's fashion chamber told AFP the sector had finally "turned the corner".

Models in pastel-coloured mini dresses, soft furs and python boots paraded down the catwalk in what Gucci's creative director Frida Giannini called "glamour at its purest".

Gucci AW14/15

Gucci said the designs were a tribute to "inspirational '60s style icons", with embroidered cocktail dresses, thigh-length trenchcoats and plenty of leather.

The collection kicks off six days of ready-to-wear designs in Italy's business hub, where hopes are high for a recovery this year in a sector that has been hit by recession.

"We've turned the corner," Jane Reeve, the British chief executive of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion, who took up the post in January, told AFP in an interview.

"The fashion system has every right to think they will be in the forefront of recovery."

Reeve said the Chamber was forecasting a 5.4-percent rise in turnover for the fashion sector as a whole this year after drops of 5.4 percent in 2012 and 1.8 percent in 2013.

She said she was planning to inject more "energy, entertainment and a bit more glamour" in future fashion weeks to reflect the resurgent economic vibrancy of the sector.

"The style that Italians have is very hard to match," said Reeve, a former top advertising executive who has lived in Italy for 26 years.

"One of the key aspects of the Italian fashion market is all of the small artisans and the excellence and I personally and the Camera (Chamber) want to make sure that we keep promoting them."

Reeve said her interest in Italian fashion began at a young age when she dreamt of importing Italian shoes to Britain.

"I've always had a shoe fetish," she said, tucking into a risotto at a central Milan hotel restaurant before the Gucci show.

The catwalks continued on Wednesday with shows by Frankie Morello and Alberta Ferretti.

Thursday will see the latest designs from Fendi, which has announced it will have cameras mounted on drones flying along the catwalk - a first for the fashion community.

That will be followed by Etro and Versace on Friday, then Bottega Veneta and Roberto Cavalli on Saturday and Missoni on Sunday.

The week ends on Monday with Canadian duo DSquared2 and fashion king Giorgio Armani.

- 'Tip of fashion iceberg' -

Business daily Il Sole 24 Ore said the combined annual turnover of the fashion houses taking part was 15 billion euros but warned many of Italy's brands were too small and could fall "prey" to foreign buyers.

The new names to watch will be Fausto Puglisi, Marco De Vincenzo and Stella Jean during 65 shows and 80 presentations, as well as new talent in the form of alumni from Milan's prestigious Istituto Marangoni fashion school.

The newspaper added in an editorial that Italy was "unique" in the world in having the entire fashion production chain - from textile to tailoring to market -- in one country.

"Italian fashion weeks are the tip of an iceberg, compared with a fashion system in France that is little more than an ice cream and a British one that is just a lollipop," it said.

At an event for young global designers by Vogue Italia, the magazine's editor Franca Sozzani also said that Milan stood out from fashion weeks in London, New York and Paris.

"Milan has the highest concentration of brands in the world and gives a lot of space to young people," she told AFP as she toured displays with the famous Vogue US editor Anna Wintour.

Fashion chamber president Mario Boselli said the sector should also look to Expo 2015 in Milan as a "major opportunity" that will bring about 20 million visitors to the city.

Casting a shadow during the fashion celebrations has been the recent turmoil in emerging markets, where strong export sales in recent years have helped shield Italian designers from recession and stagnation.

Another worry is a recent report from the consultancy Bain & Company that found that the stellar growth enjoyed by the global luxury sector was beginning to slow down.

But Reeve said the sector was already looking further afield.

"We have to keep an eye on where the next emerging market is going to be."

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