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MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Milan kicked off the Italian leg of the international fashion run on Wednesday with a tighter schedule of catwalk shows aimed at meeting the needs of the foreign press but which has ruffled designers' feathers.
Thousands of journalists and buyers have descended on the Italian fashion capital to see designers such as Giorgio Armani, Prada and Versace's womenswear for next winter.
But the big names have squeezed their presentations into four days out of the February 24 - March 1 run after powerful fashion editor, Vogue's Anna Wintour, reportedly shortened her attendance.
Several designers and businessmen were quick to voice concern that a short show week would reduce the strength of the country's fashion industry. Paris fashion week runs over nine days.
"No one, not even if she is called Anna Wintour, can allow themselves to make or unmake our fashion calendar," Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti was quoted as saying in Italian newspapers.
"For this reason we must all work united."
Italian daily Corriere della Sera headlined a story about the calendar woes by saying Wintour held the Italian fashion sector "in her fist".
Wintour, who has an icy reputation, was believed to have inspired the cutthroat editor played by Meryl Streep in the film "The Devil Wears Prada". Media reports have said she would only be staying three days in Milan because she will then travel to Paris fashion week and then fly to Los Angeles for the Oscars.
"I am very much looking forward to going to Italy as always," she told trade publication Women's Wear Daily.
It is not the first time Milan fashion week has been tainted by calendar wrangles. In September, a last-minute shuffling of slots because of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur threw organizers into a fluster.
"Our designers are the best in the world but unfortunately they often show they are not conscious of their power and instead give in to the pressure of the foreign press," said Mario Boselli, chairman of Italy's National Chamber of Fashion.
Boselli has promised a new calendar in September, with at least five days of shows.
Smaller names and young designers kicked off Milan fashion week, which overall will have more than 80 catwalk shows as well as presentations. On Thursday, Prada and D&G will start off the intensive run of the bigger names through Sunday.
Continuing the growing trend for online fashion, several shows will be broadcast live on the Internet. Designers are embracing a growing crowd of Internet-savvy fashion followers taking the glamour of the catwalk beyond the coveted front row.
Designer duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have gone one further and will broadcast their D&G and Dolce & Gabbana shows live on i-Phone and Android smartphones.
According to the fashion chamber, the industry's turnover fell 15 percent to 56.5 billion euros ($76.76 billion) last year. It has forecast a 6.5 percent growth this year.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)