By  on April 30, 2010

SHANGHAI — European fashion houses are getting ready to put a stylish spin on the World Expo, which kicks off here this weekend.

Fashion will figure prominently within the Italian pavilion, which features a replica of the dome of Florence’s Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Ermenegildo Zegna each crafted an exclusive supersize look for the Expo, which will be displayed on mannequins towering at more than 11 feet. Zegna contributed a classic men’s suit, while Dolce & Gabbana made a black tulle number with a voluminous skirt. A wall of the designers’ fashions in real-life proportions will round out the display.

Prada, a sponsor of the Italian pavilion, also crafted staff members’ uniforms featuring poplin stretch fabrics and a palette of fuchsia, white and gray.

Women will complete their look with gray and white sneakers made of nylon and saffiano leather, while the men will don sneakers and loafers made of nylon and napa leather. The staff will also sport Prada’s briefcase shoulder bags made of “vela” fabric.

The Italian pavilion will also give Expo visitors a chance to observe Italian craftsmanship firsthand. In May, Salvatore Ferragamo will install some of its artisans in the pavilion to give a live shoemaking demonstration. Tod’s will stage a similar event on handbags in August, and Bulgari will do the same with jewelry in October.

Louis Vuitton is one of four sponsors of the French pavilion. Its space will feature a replica of Paris’ Art Nouveau subway entrance and seven masterpieces on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. But the luxury house isn’t handling the pavilion uniforms. French brand Armor Lux designed the staff’s look comprising red, white and blue striped T-shirts and navy pants; Spring Court supplied the sneakers.

The Japanese pavilion will also have a fashion component. Designer Junko Koshino created the staff uniforms featuring salmon-colored blouses, beige-checked pants and matching hats. Also of note, the winners of the government-subsidized fashion design competition Shinmai Creator’s Project will be present at the pavilion for a week in July. They’ll reprise the group show they presented last month during Japan Fashion Week and stage presentations of their collections. In tandem with the designer activities, Shiseido beauty consultants will offer Expo visitors makeup tips and advice.

Some pavilions are using environmentally friendly materials in their uniforms, in step with the Expo’s eco-urbanization theme. The Swedish Pavilion’s staff will wear Hennes & Mauritz’s Garden Collection, which uses materials like organic cotton, organic linen and recycled polyester.

Novanex designed the German pavilion’s uniforms, which feature recyclable and renewable materials. Key items include white shirts that can be composted after wearing — the pavilion staff plans to bury them after the Expo — and shoes with soles made of natural rubber and cork.

Fashion’s tie-up with the Expo isn’t only in the pavilions. Many houses are launching exclusive products to coincide with the event.

Channeling the spirit of Chinese folk legends, Chanel created anaccessories and jewelry collection that features dragon-adorned rings, bracelets and brooches, and Chinese dolls dressed in traditional costumes, cast into earrings and necklaces. Inspired by Chinese takeout containers, Chanel also created two clutches in jade and one in red, plus a black box-shaped handbag lettered with “Take Away” in white. The line hits Chanel’s Mainland China boutiques in May.

At the invitation of Salvatore Ferragamo, Chinese artist Xue Song toured the design headquarters last August. Afterward, Xue created apainting of a pair of seated tigers on a red and black background, a reference to 2010, Year of the Tiger. The painting has been incorporated into two lambskin Gancino totes, leather wallets and Ts and will be available in China from May 18.

Prada fashioned a line of hoodies, bags, shoes and accessories in harmony with the Expo’s theme. Shanghai skyline and nature motifs figure prominently. On a series ofnylon shoulder bags, the city’s iconic Oriental Pearl Tower towers over tufts of green grass. Flowers and leaves adorn a pink pair of ballet flats, and white clouds and pink butterflies float above a field of flowers on a quartet of totes depicting scenes of sunset,sunrise, storm and sunny day.

Meanwhile, fashion’s connection to the Expo is set to continue even after the Shanghai edition ends later this year. Milan will be the host of the next Expo in 2015. A hand-over ceremony, set for the last week of October, will feature a fashion show by four major Italian brands, although details have yet to be revealed.

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