Weak economy a dark shadow over Milan's catwalks

Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:50pm EST
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

MILAN (Reuters) - Milan Fashion Week starts on Wednesday under an economic cloud that has led to a cut in the number of catwalk shows this year and prompted a weakened Italian clothing sector to seek state aid.

Just under 80 fashion houses will send their models down the catwalk during the Autumn/Winter 2009/2010 womenswear fashion week, which begins on Wednesday and ends on March 4.

While top names such as Giorgio Armani, Versace and Gucci will each hold two runs to present their designs, there are about 10 fewer catwalk shows during the week, according to Italy's National Chamber of Fashion.

In a sign of the times, more brands are opting for presentations, which are less expensive than runway shows.

And just days before it was due to run, Roberto Cavalli canceled his show for the youthful Just Cavalli brand following troubles at distributor Ittierre. His main Roberto Cavalli show is still planned.

"There are less catwalk shows but more presentations," the chamber's chairman Mario Boselli said last week, adding there would be more brands presenting overall during the week.

"Milan has 10 more collections than before the crisis. People do not have the negative sentiment that they had before Christmas which affected January's (menswear) shows."

This comes after 20 percent fewer shows at the Autumn/Winter 2009/10 menswear fashion week in January, Boselli said.   Continued...

<p>A worker assembles an advertising board a day before the beginning of the fall/winter 2009 women's collection shows at Milan fashion week February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>