MILAN (AP) -- The Milan Fashion Chamber has claimed a victory in its efforts to reinvigorate fashion week, with Costume National's decision to preview its next women's collection in Milan after two decades in Paris.
Milan's top fashion official, Cristina Tajani, told reporters Monday that the next Milan Fashion Week, Sept. 18-23, will be "remembered as that which relaunched Milan fashion."
The Milan fashion community has been increasingly concerned that Italy's fashion capital has lost prestige to New York, Paris and London, and is redoubling efforts to energize the four annual preview weeks for men's and women's fashion and to make Milan attractive to the buyers and fashion media that are key to the industry's success.
The sense of malaise has only been deepened by Italy's economic crisis, which has hurt domestic fashion sales. The fashion chamber is forecasting a 2.5 percent decline in sales in 2013, to 58.5 billion euros ($77.5 billion), the second straight year of decline as growing exports only partially compensate for a higher-than-anticipated drop in domestic demand.
To revitalize the showcase fashion week, officials have bolstered the calendar with Italian fashion house Costume National's return with womenswear after a 22-year absence, plus the addition of eight fashion houses that will hold women's fashion shows in Milan for the first time. They include Tod's, German designer Philipp Plein and Italy's Fausto Puglisi.
Costume National's return was a welcome victory, after Milan lost the Burberry menswear collection to London in June.
"We don't want to cause any one any problems, but we want to play the game to the end," Milan Fashion Chamber Mario Boselli said. "I believe that Milan Fashion Week will testify that the Milan Fashion Chamber wants to do things differently."
Also on the program are two exhibits, one of the late fashion writer Anna Piaggi's hats and another of Italian actress Valentina Cortese's wardrobe. And four young designers have been given space in Milan's regal Palazzo Reale to show their creations.
The week will close with a tango show by dancer Roberto Herrera, which will be open to the public.
In all, the week of spring/summer 2014 womenswear previews will include 132 collections, 74 putting on fashion shows.
Absent from the calendar is Dolce&Gabbana. The designing duo are not members of the fashion chamber and schedule their fashion show separately. In addition, the pair had a dust up with a city official over the summer after the official said tax evaders should not be allowed to use city spaces. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who have been convicted of failing to declare 200 million euros to Italian authorities, protested by closing their Milan stores for three days in July. They deny evading taxes and are pledging an appeal.
Mayor Giuliano Pisapia told reporters he did not meet with the designers, but that the positions had cleared, which included a statement by the official stipulating that he abides by Italy's constitutional protection that everyone is presumed innocent until the country's highest court rules them otherwise.
"Everyone is welcome in Milan, also and above all designers like Dolce and Gabbana who are fundamental to the development of the country," Pisapia said.
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