MILAN Models stalked around a fiery lake at Roberto Cavalli and were swathed in luxurious lambskin at Bottega Veneta in Milan on Saturday for the city's biannual women's fashion week.
A pattern of scarlet flames licked around the hem of a black evening gown and beaded flapper dresses reflected blue spotlights and the glow of real fire at Cavalli's show.
Bottega Veneta chose powdery pink, grey and beige for shearling coats, linear crepe dresses and pleated skirts, adding the occasional flash of purple, emerald green and red.
Italy's national chamber of fashion (CNMI) expects the industry to make 62.5 billion euros ($85.91 billion) in revenue in 2014, returning to sales growth after two years in decline.
The trade body has set up billboards at Milan's airports reading "Welcome to Milan Fashion Week" and is streaming catwalk footage to screens around the town.
So far, high-profile attendees have included Salma Hayek, who watched a Gucci show with her husband Francois-Henry Pinault, chief executive of the label's owner Kering.
British pop star Cheryl Cole sat in the front row at Saturday's show for Roberto Cavalli, who said on Wednesday fashion should be less linked to celebrities, but admitted he was pleased when famous people wore his clothes.
"I loved the concept with the fire. He did such a great job," Cole said after the show. Asked what she was wearing, the singer replied, "Cavalli, of course."
Italian brand Ermanno Scervino showed roll-neck sweaters and cozy camel-colored coats, with full length embroidered dresses and tailored monochrome outfits for evening.
"You should not be too influenced by fashion, but by what looks good on you," designer Ermanno Scervino said before the show.
The current catwalk calendar is dominated by smaller companies, the majority of which have annual turnover below 25 million euros, according to consultancy Pambianco, a feature the editor of Italian Vogue said was part of the country's identity.
"Italy has grown up through families ... there is no other country in the world that is like that," said Sozzani.
"In the oldest kind of brand you have the mother, the father, the daughter, the brother-in-law. They are strong when you put them all together."
CNMI's new chief executive Jane Reeve said there was work to be done to support smaller companies, but more brands meant more variety.
"People want choice," said Reeve, who has said she wanted to bring the benefit of her international experience as an advertising executive to the fashion trade association.
"We as the (CNMI) can help to put those small and medium companies in contact with banks," she said. "But it's not just about funding - knowledge is a currency as well."
Fashion week continues on Sunday with shows from Dolce & Gabbana, zigzag knitwear pioneer Missoni and Tuscan brand Salvatore Ferragamo. ($1 = 0.7275 euros)
(Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Andrew Roche)