Italian designers voiced optimism despite the economic gloom as a Milan Fashion Week inspired by the Roaring Twenties closed on Tuesday, handing over the relay to the Paris shows later this week.
"How is fashion doing? It's doing very well in spite of the government!" Donatella Versace told reporters at one of the shows -- as reports of Silvio Berlusconi's ever-deepening legal woes became the talk of the town.
"It's going against the current compared to everything else!"
Massimo Ferretti, head of Gruppo Aeffe, a major player in the Milan fashion business, said: "It would be a mistake to stop at every economic crisis.
"We have to continue to rely on our capacity to produce fashion that is elaborate and high-quality and to offer an excellent service," he said.
The Italian fashion sector has been forced to halve its growth forecast for this year to four percent from eight percent as Italy has been hit by a storm on financial markets markets due to its low growth and high debt levels.
But Vogue Italy editor Franca Sozzani said the designers this year managed to put the economic worries to one side and come up with original and even daring outfits for their spring/summer 2012 collections.
"In this time of crisis, the designs not only did not resort to calm and safe collections but they were daring, even very daring.... The panorama is excellent and this helps the whole fashion system," she said.
Gucci set the tone for the week with a collection of shiny flapper-style dresses with geometric patterns reminiscent of classic New York skyscrapers.
Etro unveiled its new collection to the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald and Emporio Armani came out with geometric outfits similar to Art Deco designs.
The shows at Milan Fashion Week projected the image of a confident, sensual woman but with none of the hard edges seen in some of the previous seasons.
"Being feminine in an aggressive way is a bit passe. A woman can be modern while expressing her softness," Miuccia Prada said after showing off a collection that combined a 1950s college girl look with boy racer style.
Missoni came out with fiery designs from warmer climes -- reprising the theme of far-flung travel that featured in many of the shows.
"It was really a southern inspiration," Angela Missoni said after the "Sunrise Birds" show, referring to women with "carefree sensuality".
This edition of Milan Fashion Week set its sights firmly on high-growth export markets that the industry desperately needs at a time when luxury consumption in more traditional markets in Europe is sloping off.
Attending the runways were plenty of Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Russian buyers -- and the press rows are now increasingly multilingual.
Among the attendees was Mikhail Kusnirovich, head of Bosco dei Ciliegi in Moscow -- a major high-end fashion retailing company.
Kusnirovich, a longtime fan of Italian fashion, said he planned to open Max Mara, Etro and La Perla stores in a luxury shopping mall in the city of Sochi in southern Russia, which is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014.
He told reporters: "Considering what is happening in the world, I'm almost embarrassed to say that already last year we regained the turnover that we had before 2008 and this year we're closing with growth of 20 to 24 percent."
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