Milan Fashion Week: Fendi, Prada, Versace on catwalks

Italy's top luxury brands including Fendi, Prada and Versace take to the catwalks for Milan fashion week from Wednesday to show off hotly-awaited spring-summer 2013 collections to global fashionistas.

Gucci is set to kick off the fashion extravaganza, which will see 68 Italian and international brands strutting down runways in a week of shows, boutique openings, cocktail presentations and parties.

British designer John Richmond, famed for his rock-inspired creations, also stars on Wednesday, followed on Thursday by Prada and Emporio Armani.

Etro, known for its trademark bright colours and bold patterns, will take to the catwalk on Friday, along with Moschino and two Versace shows -- followed by a rock-and-roll party with live band to show off Versace's Versus collection.

Saturday opens with German designer Tomas Maier, who will unveil his latest creations for Bottega Veneta, followed by Fendi and Jil Sander's hotly-awaited collection -- the first since she rejoined as creative director in February.

On Sunday, it will be the turn of Marni, Dolce & Gabbana and Giorgio Armani, after which the Armani house will host a glitzy inauguration party for a new exhibition to showcase the Italian designer's most memorable creations.

Fashion week winds up with DSquared2, Roberto Cavalli and Gianfranco Ferre on Monday, with Tuesday dedicated to up-and-coming new designers.

Beneath the frantic pre-show preparations taking place in the city's palaces, parks and historic monuments -- including the imposing 14th century Sforzesco Castle -- there is an air of apprehension over the sector's health.

Last week the fashion industry forecast a 5.6-percent drop in revenue for 2012 to 60.2 billion euros ($79 billion), down from an earlier 5.2-percent estimate -- and luxury brands in the recession-hit country are being squeezed.

While many fashion houses are now focusing their efforts on expansion abroad -- particularly in economic powerhouses such as China and Brazil -- there are still bids to attract wealthy visitors to Italy's commercial capital.

Fashion week this season will be marked by a string of boutique openings -- from Just Cavalli -- opening on the exclusive Corso Matteotti with a party on Friday -- to British lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.

And in a declared bid to boost Made in Italy, Nicole Minetti, a television starlet-turned-politician on trial for procuring prostitutes for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, will model lingerie on the catwalk for Parah according to media reports.

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