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MILAN (Reuters) - Designers Rocco Barocco and Roberta Scarpa kept attention firmly on accessories at the start of Milan's womenswear week, and the chief executive of Gianfranco Ferre said the label was developing this area.
As the credit crunch threatens to crimp spending on luxury goods, designers are increasingly aware that jewelry, hats and shoes give shoppers without the spending power for a red-carpet frock a way of buying into their favorite brand.
"I think shoes and costume jewelry are racing ahead," Ferre CEO Michela Piva told Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper. "You've only got to think that 1,000 euros is not enough to buy a beautiful bag by a famous brand but you can have even luxury shoes for 350-400 euros."
Barocco's models strode out in strikingly high mules in metallic bronze or black-and-white geometrics, while Scarpa -- her name means shoe in Italian -- scooped into platform shoes with a Z shaped heel in red or bright blue.
She buckled smooth metal bracelets that looked like unattached cuffs on models with sleeveless dresses.
The designers -- among the first to present collections in Milan's womenswear week which runs from September 20-27 -- both opted for big, black shiny jewelry.
Barocco put a heavy black necklace like an embroidered collar on a tunic, while Scarpa's earrings looked like the drops from a funereal Venetian chandelier.
Hats at Barocco were wide-brimmed black straw and were in keeping with his Havana-inspired collection and he had hippy headscarves in purple and mauve printed silks.
He dressed models in ruffles and bows, with black and cream frocks that looked as effortless as a shot of chiffon wrapped and tied in a bow.
Sheer see-through blouses were worn with skinny skirts embroidered with bursts of chrysanthemums, a motif used both for neutral shades or powerful purple and crimson for evening wear.
Swimwear -- for these collections are nominally spring and summer 2009 -- was draped rather than stretched over bodies in tanga-style all-in-ones. Stylishly subdued leopard and tiger print was used for the costumes and for soft, full silk or chiffon coats to throw over.
Scarpa, who is based in the lagoon city of Venice, took inspiration from its trademark fabrics and used damask and watermark prints alongside traditionally inspired lace.
Coffee and cream swirled on silk like a rainstorm on water while damask print trousers were topped with sheer chiffon blouses or embroidered lace tunics.
Necklines were slashed to the navel while hemlines were either ground level or high as the thigh.
Scarpa flashed cornflower blue and tomato red into belts or shoes and then into full-length, flowing evening dresses for a dazzling finish.
Reporting by Jo Winterbottom; editing by Elizabeth Piper