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MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Milan has long claimed its place among the top fashion capitals of the world, but calendar woes have fashionistas asking whether it is losing influence.
While top names like Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Versace gave it their all at the autumn/winter 2010-2011 catwalk shows and won wide praise for their lines, the talk of fashion week has centered on the intensive schedule of its cramped calendar.
Organizers were left scrambling to fit the major names into four days out of the February 24 - March 1 run after powerful fashion editor, Vogue's Anna Wintour, reportedly said she planned to shorten her attendance to go to Paris fashion week and then the Oscars in Los Angeles.
Both local and international press have written about the "Wintour effect" on the northern Italian city and how designers were bowing to demands of the international press.
Mario Boselli, the chairman of Italy's National Chamber of Fashion -- which organizes Milan fashion week -- said Italian designers often showed they were not conscious of their power "and instead give in to the pressure of the foreign press."
"I think the big maisons should speak up. We are smaller but we had to schedule our show accordingly with the calendar," Maurizio Modica, one of the designers at Frankie Morello, told Reuters. "The influence of Anna Wintour? It's a reality."
Milan has long relied on its status of the same big name brands that have been around for decades and whose creations are lapped up around the world. But main rival fashion capitals New York and Paris have longer schedules for this season. Industry observers also note there have been few internationally recognized young designers to emerge here in the last few years.
Many buyers and fashion reporters have complained about the practical problems of a shortened schedule, with shows running at least 30 minutes late. They said more shows were usually more punctual at the preceding London Fashion Week.
"It's extremely hard and it's very disappointing to have to fit so much into four days," Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Britain's Harrods store, said.
British fashion reporter Hilary Alexander said the short schedule was not fair on anybody.
"I don't know why it's become so short, Milan is like an economic powerhouse for fashion and there are so many major brands here," she said. "It would be nice to have a slightly longer schedule like we normally do, six, seven days."
Wintour has been known to curtail her stay in Milan before as well as in Paris, but the French capital has not changed its calendar as a result and shows there run for nine days.
Several designers and businessmen have voiced concern that a short show week would reduce the strength of Italy's fashion industry, especially at a time when the economic crisis has hit demand. Turnover for the sector fell 15 percent last year to 56.5 billion euros. An improvement is forecast for this year.
"The real problem is that a shorter calendar not only damages fashion shows but also the business," Michele Norsa, CEO of Salvatore Ferragamo, told Reuters. "This creates a sense of anxiety for those who come here from abroad. We need to have more time for the shows and our business contacts."
Boselli has promised a new calendar for the September shows, with "five strong days." While Wintour declined to speak with Reuters when approached at Milan fashion week, the editor of Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani said the calendar was "awful."
"It will last longer next season," she said. "You always need to hit the bottom to then come back up to float."
Additional reporting by Antonella Ciancio, editing by Paul Casciato