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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's young fashion designers kicked off the Milan womenswear shows on Wednesday, betting on novelty and fresh ideas to win over a fragile industry in a tough economic climate.
Showing their collections at the Autumn/Winter 2009/2010 fashion week, four new designers picked by Italy's National Chamber of Fashion said times were certainly tough to start out in but that did not mean there was no room for new talent.
"Starting now is difficult ... there is less demand now because of the economic circumstances," 23-year old Alessia De Pasquale said.
"But the fashion industry is always looking for new ideas, new talent, fresh things ... It's important to stand out."
De Pasquale, who is based in London and has worked at top fashion houses such Burberry and Aquascutum, presented a menswear collection that took inspiration from the 1950s but also had a modern twist.
She added a double collar on white shirts, expanded the top of trousers that finished at the ankle and put tiny leather-bag-like details on jacket shoulders.
Luxury brands have not been spared by the economic turmoil and the sector has been hit by growing evidence of restrained spending for clothes and accessories even among the super-rich.
Italy's fashion industry is already hurting and its bodies have warned of risks for the sector and called for government help.
Antonio Romano, who played with the cut on flappy coats and light silk dresses, said banking on young designers in tough times could be beneficial for fashion players.
"I think investing in young designers is the best recipe to beat this period, maybe there is a need for something new in this situation," he said. "Maybe the young (designers) have charges that don't cost a lot."
Without much financial backing, trying to survive a crippling recession can be particularly tough for emerging designers. Many graduates face a bleak future as employers cut back on hiring, so showing off designs at one of the top fashion events of the year is a big help.
"(Doing a show here) is a nice way of showing yourself off. I got many compliments," Alessia Xoccato, 26, who put hoop-like middles in her short colorful dresses.
She said the best way to beat the recession was to stay creative. "Even in these times you need to be determined." "I don't think it's that negative a moment," said 28-year old Marta Forghieri who dressed her models in short, flowing dresses and tight shorts and accessorized them with headphones. Some even had balloons tied to their wrists.
"You have to keep doing what you do, if not what can you do?" she said after receiving several rounds of applause for her designs.
Just under 80 fashion houses will send their models down the catwalk during Milan fashion week, which ends on March 4.
Also showing on Wednesday were the Luciano Soprani collection which played on contrasts and layering in mainly black and white and Valeria Marini who looked to the smoky atmosphere of Moulin Rouge for her sequined dresses and feathered hats.
Editing by Paul Casciato