* Zegna, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace start four days of shows
* Missoni awaiting news about missing scion Vittorio in
* Italian menswear sales up 1.9 pct in 2012, domestic sales
down - SMI
By Antonella Ciancio
MILAN, Jan 12 Milan's menswear fashion week
started on Saturday amid concerns over the economy and also the
fate of Vittorio Missoni, one of Italy's best-known clothes
executives, whose plane disappeared off Venezuela a week ago.
Italy's luxury goods industry is set to continue to
outperform other sectors this year, according to analysts,
helped by the appetite of Asian shoppers for the country's
tailored suits and leather shoes.
But prospects for the economy remain as gloomy as the cloudy
skies under which hundreds of fashion critics and buyers rushed
on Saturday to watch the menswear proposals for next winter.
Orders for the Italian menswear collections that will arrive
in stores around the world this summer have fallen 8 percent,
Italy's textile and fashion body Sistema Moda Italia (SMI) said.
Over half of domestic menswear manufacturers polled by SMI
said they saw no sign of improvement this year, while the
remaining 44 percent said they were preparing for deterioration.
The fashion world is also awaiting news about Missoni,
eldest son of one of Italy's most famous fashion families.
A small twin-engine aircraft carrying Missoni, 58, his wife
Maurizia Castiglioni, another couple and two Venezuelan crew
went missing on Jan. 4 after taking off from the Caribbean
island resort of Los Roques.
The Missoni fashion house, known for its exuberantly
coloured knits featuring bold stripes and zigzags, said it had
decided to go ahead with its show in Milan, although the family
is unlikely to attend.
Media reported on Saturday that the location where the plane
disappeared may have been found, but it was not possible to get
an immediate comment from Italy's foreign ministry.
The Italian fashion chamber called reporters to retweet
family members' requests to find Missoni and the others aboard.
CHEAP AND CHIC
Designers showing in Milan will need all their imagination
to attract male customers flocking to e-commerce websites and
outlets for quality bargains.
Domestic sales of Italian tailored clothes, silk ties and
leather shoes fell 4.7 percent in 2012 for a fifth consecutive
year, according to Italian textile and fashion body Sistema Moda
Only outlets and online sales bucked the trend, with a jump
of 41 percent in sales to final customers during the 2011/12
winter season, according to SMI.
Big luxury names such as Zegna, Prada and
Salvatore Ferragamo have boosted their digital ranges
to entice younger customers who shop from smartphones.
"You have to ask yourself: 'Are our products suitable for
selling on line?'" Hugo Boss Chief Financial Officer
Mark Langer told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
"Amazingly, we've sold a lot more suits than we thought we
would online," Langer said.
Exports helped global sales of Italian menswear grow by 2
percent to 8.6 billion euros ($11.4 billion) in 2012 despite a
sharp decline in domestic stores, SMI said.
Europe is still the biggest market for Italian menswear but
sales fell 2.7 percent in France and up to 7 percent in Spain in
the first nine months of 2012, SMI said.
The Milan show opens with menswear champion Ermenegildo
Zegna, followed by Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry and Versace.
($1 = 0.7568 euros)
(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Jason Webb)