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Jan 15, 2016
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Milan fashion forces rally against the gloom

Jan 15, 2016

Terror attacks around the world and the recent death of style icon David Bowie form a gloomy backdrop for the winter 2016/17 menswear shows that kick off here on Friday.

Ermanno Scervino at the Men Spring-Summer 2016 - AFP

But Carlo Capasa, President of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, is confident the big names of the fashion world will kick back with a "dose of positive energy" over the next five days.

"Fashion represents one of the great strong points of our Western culture," Capasa told AFP. "It is a world of multiple possibilities, where the young are welcome, can get answers and express themselves, and where the only thing that counts is your talent."

More than 40 catwalk shows are scheduled for the latest mens fashion week in the Italian style capital with the big Italian names like Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada complemented by a handful of international brands, including Britain's Vivienne Westwood.

Norwegian designer Peter Dundas' eagerly awaited first menswear collection since his return to Roberto Cavalli will get proceedings under way on Friday evening.

Along with the dampening effect of the threat of terror attacks, factors such as economic sanctions on Russia and uncertainty in China and other emerging markets have helped to make it a difficult year for sellers of upmarket menswear.

"In a conjunctural context that was globally favourable but still too fluctuating and uncertain, Italian menswear sales should register modest growth for the year," said the Italian Textile Federation (SMI).

With the help of the euro's significant decline against the dollar, the organisation's number crunchers are expecting growth of 1.8 percent to a total of nearly nine billion euros worth of sales. That is significantly down from the 3.8 percent growth SMI was predicting at the time of the Spring/Summer menswear collections in June.

With domestic demand weakening, export growth is expected to slow to 2.4 percent, compared to 5.1 percent in 2014. Exports account for nearly two thirds of Italian menswear sales.

- Accessible elegance -

SMI President Claudio Marenzi said another year of modest growth (2 percent) was anticipated for 2016. "Our goal has to be maintaining the global dominance of Italian fashion, not only in terms of creativity but also in terms of industry," Marenzi said.

Gaetano Marzano, president of the Pitti Uomo industry event in Florence which precedes the Milan shows, said his main hope for 2016 was that the dollar's recent strength against the euro would be sustained.

"And that Americans will continue to spend because they have become our biggest clients, particularly for men's fashionwear," he said highlighting a 16.2 percent rise in menswear exports to the USA in 2015.

"The accessible elegance of 'made-in-Italy' is also very much appreciated in northern Europe," Marzano added, highlighting strong growth in Britain and Germany, which was only partially offset by disappointing falls in sales to France and Switzlerland.

"The real challenge is in the East (of Europe) where people adore Italian fashion and are now beginning to be able to afford it.

"Hopefully the problems with Russia will be resolved," he added, revealing that sanctions imposed over Moscow's actions in Ukraine had reduced sales there by a third.

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