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MILAN (Reuters Life!) - A dim blue light glimmers in the dark before camera flashes inundate the catwalk. A man is typing fast on his mobile: "Bottega is showing leather jeans. What would it take for American men to wear them?"
The curly man, who writes for Esquire magazine, belongs to a swarm of bloggers who have descended on Italy's fashion capital to tweet from menswear week, which ends on Tuesday.
Still recovering from the worst slowdown in decades, the exclusive fashion world is turning to social network sites such as Twitter to reach a swelling, fashion-conscious community.
"Twitter is a great way to connect. Everybody has to use it and understand how it suits your mission," Angela Ahrendts, chief executive of the British luxury group Burberry and also a tweeter, told Reuters on the sidelines of their show.
Top Italian designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Roberto Cavalli tweet regularly about launches and events.
"Twitter gives the customer immediate, insider access to aspects of the brand not seen before it is introduced to the retail world," Chaz Sargent, co-founder of the namesake U.S.-based luxury online store told Reuters.
Blogger Danijela R. said: "(Brands aim to) reach a wider audience and build up a more personal relationship (with customers) in order to make a stronger brand."
Fashionistas are the real decision-makers in the micro-blogging community, where they give their thumbs up or down on trends to the pleasure of their audiences.
Some fashion media, such as Women's Wear Daily, have more followers than some of the celebrities they tweet about.
"People love gossip and insider tidbits. They want to hear things first on Twitter and if they like the brand they will want to hear everything," Marcus Jaye, Creative Director of online men's style magazine TheChicGeek.co.uk told Reuters.
Still, some fashion houses are reluctant to go on Twitter.
Italian trendsetter Prada, whose show was one of the most tweeted about this week, is not on Twitter. Other luxury brands such as Ferragamo are timidly testing the water.
"I think a lot of top designers or brands aren't sure how to approach Twitter, whether to go personal or corporate," Jaye said. "They are not confident in how to use this fast-paced mouthpiece and as such are avoiding it."
Additional reporting by Silvia Ognibene in Florence, writing by Antonella Ciancio, editing by Paul Casciato