By  on February 15, 2007

There's nothing unclear about the city of Milan's message: Officials want their town to host the 2015 Universal Expo — a giant world's fair — and are banking on the powerful added asset of the fashion industry as a big drawing card.

"We simply cannot miss this chance," said Massimo Sordi, vice president of Milan's Chamber of Commerce, during a news conference held Wednesday along with the Italian Chamber of Fashion to present the Feb. 17-24 calendar.

"Fashion must remain in Milan and Milan must remain Italy's capital of fashion, despite ephemeral projects presented by other cities [Rome and Florence]," said city councillor Tiziana Maiolo.

For the first time, Mario Boselli, head of the Chamber of Fashion, publicly addressed the issue of a number of fashion houses, like Miu Miu and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, opting to show elsewhere.

"Milan is increasingly shaping up as the runway for designers' signature lines," said Boselli, referring to Paris as an equivalent. "There are no [Parisian] second or young lines showing there."

Angrily displaying headlines from several articles in the Italian dailies attesting that fashion brands are fleeing Milan, Boselli said, "[Prada chief executive officer] Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada did well to show Miu Miu in Paris. As an entrepreneur, I would have done it, too. Obviously, Miu Miu would always be considered Prada's younger sister by showing in the same city, and the same can be said for Philosophy."

Boselli said other reasons to show outside Milan include the product, as in the case of Diesel and Miss Sixty, which "fits better" with the "mood" of a city like New York, or a concurrent event, such as a boutique opening in a different city, like Emporio Armani showing in London last season.

"In such a global business, each city must find its own identity. The main designer lines remain the excellence of Milan, a place where fashion houses choose to hold two shows, which does not happen anywhere else," said Boselli. "This is a nuisance for us, frankly, because in the end, the double shows add up to one less available day on the calendar, but we are honored at the same time because these are all main fashion brands." Boselli cited Fendi and Versace as firms that have chosen to hold two shows this season, just as they are "growing and expanding.""This all upgrades Milan, not the opposite," he said. Besides Fendi and Versace, other brands that are holding two shows are Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani, Prada, Gucci, Gianfranco Ferré, Jil Sander and Marni. The latter two are both scheduled outside the official calendar, conflicting with the Chamber of Fashion. This season, 221 collections are slated to show, with such names as 6267, Haute and Albino holding runway shows for the first time.

A fashion marathon it may be, but Milan Fashion Week is also increasingly anchored to art and cultural events. This season will provide exhibitions of works by Henri Cartier Bresson, Paul Klee, Jannis Kounellis and Hans Hartung. Martin Margiela's Artisanal collection will be on display at Galleria Carla Sozzani. It is a selection of the Belgian designer's pieces made with recycled objects since 1989, and shown in Italy for the first time.

Among other fashion week events:

l Malo is reopening its Via Spiga store Monday with exhibition space for clothes and artwork. On tap are works by contemporary artists Giacomo Balla, Julian Schnabel and Mimmo Paladino, among others. "There is no difference between a dress, a painting, a sculpture, a symphony except for the material each is made of," said Tonino Perna, chairman of IT Holding, which controls Malo.

l That evening, Steve Sadove, ceo of Saks Inc., and Ron Frasch, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, will receive an award from Boselli at the city's Palazzo Reale for Saks Fifth Avenue's "contribution to the success of the Made in Italy label and its long-lasting and friendly collaboration."

l At the Triennale, the traveling Giorgio Armani retrospective will conclude its trip around the world in Milan, with an installation by Robert Wilson, running Feb. 20 through April 1.

l Next week, Bulgari will also take the opportunity to introduce its new Elisia jewelry line and show a selection of vintage jewels from the historical archives in the brand's Via Montenapoleone boutique.

Looking ahead, Milan Fashion Week in the fall will run Sept. 22-29. Shows will be held Feb. 18-25 and Sept. 22-29 in 2008 and Feb. 25-March 4 and Sept. 23-30 in 2009. In 2010, the dates are Feb. 24-March 3 and Sept. 22-29. As reported, Boselli said that starting in 2009, the week will run from Wednesday to Wednesday, in order to "have a strong weekend in the middle."And while fashion week officially kicks off Saturday, the Chamber of Fashion is taking a stance in the skinny-model issue with a fashion show scheduled today featuring models wearing clothes fitting different and bigger sizes.

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