MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Milan's designers will strive to bring their catwalk collections closer to the average shopper with a range of public shows and electronic offerings as Milan Fashion Week kicks off on Wednesday.
Aiming to overcome the calendar woes that squeezed February's womenswear edition into four days and lure cash-strapped shoppers, organizers have spread around 170 shows and presentations over a week, arranged open-air viewings, streaming videos to giant screens and smartphones.
"We are spreading around, we are getting closer to people," Mario Boselli, president of Italy's National Chamber of Fashion, told Reuters on the sidelines of an exhibition on Monday.
Thousands of journalists and buyers are expected to add to the hustle and bustle in the heart of Italy's fashion capital, where organizers moved their hub for the first time in 30 years.
The decision to leave a less central fair center was made to help buyers, models and reporters move around Milan's crowded streets, after complaints over delays and traffic jams.
"The calendar is more balanced, we will see more punctuality at the shows," Armando Branchini, secretary general of Italian luxury goods association Altagamma told reporters on Tuesday.
Unlike past editions, names such as Gucci and Armani will not jam pack the days in the middle of the schedule, while underwear, swimwear and oversize brands have been left out.
Shows will be streamed on giant screens and news will be delivered on smartphones to bring the catwalk to the average Milanese shopper, as the industry strives to fully recover from the crisis.
"I think a true recovery is under way, but it's not a big recovery," Michele Tronconi, President of Italian textile and fashion federation Sistema Moda Italia (SMI), told Reuters.
"The fashion market is bouncing up and down," he said.
According to SMI, Italian textile industry's turnover is expected to rise 4.5 percent this year, partially offsetting a 15 percent fall to 56.5 billion euros ($74 billion) in 2009.
Milan's popular swing reflects a trend seen among fashion brands such as Lanvin and Valentino, which have announced fast-selling capsule collections for clothing retailers Hennes & Mauritz and Gap respectively.
Costume National -- which will parade in Milan's picturesque Duomo square, close to Gap's upcoming flagship -- will design a collection for Italian retailer Coin's Oviesse stores.
However, the Milan fashion week will not lack glamour. Roberto Cavalli will celebrate the maison's 40th anniversary with a star-packed open-air show in Milan and an exclusive party in Paris, where the fashion caravan will end its run started in New York and London.
Reporting by Antonella Ciancio, Editing by Paul Casciato