MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Designers will show off their menswear creations for next winter starting Saturday in a shortened Milan fashion week with expectations of another downturn in Italian sales casting gloom on the glitter.
Luxury brands have not been spared by the credit crunch and the National Chamber of Fashion said on Friday it expected turnover for Italy's fashion industry to fall 5 percent this year to 63.2 billion euros ($83.78 billion).
Although the chamber said the forecast could change because of the uncertain context, it added that the decline followed a 4 percent fall to 66.5 billion euros in 2008.
Models will strut down the catwalk in more than 40 shows during Milan's menswear Autumn/Winter 2009/2010 fashion week. It runs until Tuesday and comes as the economic recession begins to bite hard in the United States and elsewhere.
"The cupboards are full and to provide incentives for people to buy, you need to propose new and creative things," Mario Boselli, the chamber's chairman, was quoted as saying in Il Giornale newspaper.
"(Fashion week) will provide evidence of efforts to overcome the economic situation."
Originally planned for five days, the Milan shows have been squeezed into four, after a diary clash with Paris fashion week.
In a sign of changing times, several labels have decided not to show on the catwalk, opting instead for presentations.
Boselli told reporters on Friday 11 designers had decided against catwalk shows, while three new houses will have them.
"That means eight less shows, or one day, we are good. The French have not done any damage," he said.
Valentino is opting for a commercial presentation. Fendi and Marni will present their lines by appointment.
The lead-up to fashion week has not been without comings and goings.
Valentino this week said menswear designer Ferruccio Pozzoni had left the house.
Meanwhile, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, creative directors for womenswear at Gianfranco Ferre, will now also look after its menswear, Gianfranco Ferre said.
A precursor to Milan fashion week, the Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence hosted events that looked at suits and work clothing. One exhibition specifically looked at the latter's technological aspects and influence on fashion.
"We will see what happens. The sector is suffering less than others," Boselli said.
Originally expecting an increase in turnover for 2008, Boselli said forecasts were revised after the "freezing" of the economy in the autumn.
However he added there was a "nice surprise" for the December 15-January15 period, with data indicating a rise in sales.
Despite the somewhat somber context, celebrities will surely add a dose of glamour. Newspapers have been speculating which VIPs will be attending the shows, with rumors that soccer player David Beckham and his wife Victoria, both of whom have modeled for Giorgio Armani, may make an appearance.
Beckham is on a three-month loan to AC Milan.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)