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Fashion set heads to Milan for live shows -- for real this time
The who's who of Italian fashion retakes the runway with the return of Milan women's shows Wednesday, which organisers hope will boost an industry stifled by two years of coronavirus.
Back are the leggy models, the paparazzi and the Prosecco-fuelled parties as the international jet-set ready for live shows from the likes of Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Gucci, including a debut for Ferrari.
This season, for the first time since Covid-19 erupted in Italy in February 2020, in-person shows with audiences will outnumber pre-taped shows and films streamed for homebound fashionistas.
Those proved a pale substitute for the runway extravaganzas that are a major advertising weapon for luxury brands. Now, Milan is hoping for an event worthy of the return of hundreds of buyers, journalists and fashion executives to the city.
Carlo Capasa, chairman of Italy's national fashion chamber (CNMI), acknowledged during a press conference last week the "uncertainty" that still weighed over the sector.
But the 58 physical shows and nine digital offerings for Fall/Winter 2022/2023 are "a strong sign of optimism and positivity, which infuses new momentum into the industry", he said.
"Everything is heading towards recovery in 2022."
Attracting the most attention among the ready-to-wear shows is Gucci, today's "It" label, with its green and red stripe. It returns to the Milan calendar after a two-year absence.
Designer Alessandro Michele is fresh from November's "Gucci Love Parade" show that -- replete with satin, spangles and ostrich feathers -- turned Hollywood's Walk of Fame into the flashiest of catwalks.
- Clawing back -
Two years ago this week in Milan, Moschino presented a Versailles-worthy collection of embroidered silk confections on models in towering hairdos. The carefree, "Let them eat cake" vibe was soon brought to a brutal halt by the pandemic.
Since then, after a period of factory closures, plummeting sales and a sea change in how people dress (sweatpants, anyone?), the industry has sought to claw its way back to pre-Covid levels.
"After nearly two years of disruption, the global fashion industry is once again finding its feet," wrote consultancy McKinsey in a December report.
Italy's fashion and related sectors are expected to post revenue of 83 billion euros ($95 billion) in 2021, up 20.9 percent year-on-year, according to CNMI. That is still 7.8 percent shy of 2019 levels, however.
Exports, up 16.4 percent in the first 10 months of 2021, were fuelled by a 50-percent rise in sales to China, and a 31.8-percent increase to the United States.
Chinese buyers will still be absent this week due to restricted entry into Italy, but a government measure intended to spur tourism means foreign buyers who received non-EU approved vaccines, in particular Russia's Sputnik, are welcome.
A surge of Omicron cases resulted in a scaled-down Milan men's fashion week in January, and anxiety continues to hang over the show circuit, which began this month in New York and, following shows in London and Milan, wraps up in Paris on March 8.
In New York, Tom Ford cancelled his highly anticipated runway show, blaming an unfinished collection on Omicron cases among US design staff and Italian factory workers.
- Cars and corsets -
More at home on the racetrack than the runway, Ferrari makes its Milan debut Sunday, eight months after designer Rocco Iannone presented the first fashion collection for the luxury sports car brand, using its assembly line as a catwalk.
Returning to Milan Wednesday is Diesel, marking Belgian designer Glenn Martens' second collection for the Italian denim brand.
Martens, who continues to serve as artistic director of Y/Project, presented a resplendent haute couture collection in Paris last month as Jean Paul Gaultier's guest designer, garnering rave reviews for his deconstructed take on the French designer's signature corseting.
Fashion watchers are also eager for Matthieu Blazy's debut Saturday as new creative director of Bottega Veneta, following the surprise exit of Daniel Lee in November.