Glimmer of hope for fashion ahead of Milan menswear

MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Designers will show off their menswear creations for next spring starting Saturday as Milan fashion week kicks off amid hopes of a recovery for the sector.

After a “frosty” start to the year -- when there were fewer shows at the January Autumn/Winter 2009-2010 menswear fashion week -- there are some positive signals emerging, according to Italy’s National Chamber of Fashion.

“(Italy’s fashion industry) has been hit by a U-shaped crisis. We are going back up but how we go back up makes the difference,” the body’s Chairman Mario Boselli said this week.

Italy’s fashion sector, which earlier this year called for government help as the economic crisis hit demand, will see turnover fall again in 2009 -- down 6.5 percent to 62.176 billion euros ($86.55 billion), according to chamber forecasts.

Smaller companies which are in debt are seen to be more at risk in the recession, experts say.

But Boselli said there were positive signs for the industry such as a 1.1 percent increase in industrial production.

While sales in fashion boutiques have fallen in the last two months, those for outlets rose, he said.

“This means that people still want designer brands but are no longer able to pay the full price,” he said.

Some luxury goods brands have taken specific measures in the crisis -- from holding discreet sales to shaving price tags.

Dolce & Gabbana -- whose menswear models will include Jesus Luz, whose name has been linked to Madonna -- were quoted this week saying they would cut prices by between 10 and 20 percent.

During the June 20-23 fashion week, 93 collections will be presented -- 15 percent more compared to January, Boselli said.

There are around 40 catwalk shows, but only Giorgio Armani and Prada are holding two shows.

Ermenegildo Zegna will kick off and close the week with the signature brand showing on Saturday and Z Zegna on June 23 while Dolce & Gabbana, who for the last few seasons showed off calendar, are back on the chamber’s official agenda.

U.S. designer Marc Jacobs is a new name on the calendar, with presentations.

“All the big fashion names will be present,” Boselli said.

“I hope that this will be proof of Italian designers’ ability to come together to defend Made in Italy in hard times.”

And the week will not be just reserved for men. On Saturday, Milan will play host to the televised “International Fashion Show” in front of the La Scala opera house, where Italy’s top names will showcase their womenswear evening creations.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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