MILAN — Milan Fashion Week is scurrying to cope with Oscar and Tom.

While the official calendar for the season has not yet been released by organizers, the shows are less than a month away and designers, buyers and press are working hard to figure out ways to cope with two major events during the week. The first will be the Academy Awards, which sent Italian designers into a tizzy with its decision to move the red-carpet extravaganza to Feb. 29, the last day of the Milan season.

The other blockbuster will be the farewell of Tom Ford at Gucci, who will show his last collection for the brand on Wednesday, Feb. 25. The Gucci farewell is likely to dominate press coverage the following day.

And, as if the Milan season isn’t hectic enough, the calendar also will have a few new entrants, such as Bottega Veneta, part of the Gucci Group; Gilles Rosier, and Pollini, now designed by Rifat Ozbek.

The most drama has been created by the conflict with the Oscars, which has caused the calendar to be more intense than usual earlier in the week. That means buyers and press will have to be in Milan from the start, rather than waiting to arrive in the middle of the week as in the past.

Giorgio Armani will be the first major designer to show, on Feb. 23, although a spokesman noted that the decision to go early had nothing to do with the Academy Awards. “We showed at the beginning of the week last season, as well,” the Armani spokesman said. “It was a very positive experience and we wanted to repeat that, we had a good reaction and it felt refreshing.”

As of now, Armani himself does not plan to attend the Oscars. However, his team, as usual, will be in L.A. to handle all the demands of the Hollywood flock.

Versace, which was originally scheduled to show on Feb. 29, will now hold its show on Feb. 26, a day after Gucci. “The change was affected by the Oscars,” a spokesman said. “We chose to move up so that we could effectively and cohesively deal with the Academy Awards, which is always a tremendous opportunity for Versace, and the Hollywood customers that we service.“By moving up our show, we allow our teams to focus 100 percent on each event without diluting either of them,” he said, adding that the decision was made in mid-December.

Donatella Versace will not attend the Oscars, as she will be engaged in market appointments. The spokesman noted that Oscars attendees and nominees sporting Versace only wear the couture, so that the ready-to-wear collection is not affected by the earlier date of the awards show. However, by moving the rtw show earlier, the company’s seamstresses will be able to attend to the stars in Los Angeles.

Missoni executives also downplayed the conflict with the Oscars, even though the house will close the Milan season on Feb. 29 — and even though the company has prepared a full collection exclusively for the Academy Awards. “We’ve been closing the week for a while now and we don’t really see a problem,” said a spokeswoman. Margherita Missoni will be attending the Oscars this time, while her mother, Angela Missoni, will be busy in Milan with the show.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first announced it was moving up its annual awards show by one month back in June 2002 in an effort to boost its television ratings and help garner more attention against competing shows like the Golden Globes. As noted last fall, Mario Boselli, president of Italy’s Chamber of Fashion, said Milan’s spring show dates were scheduled in September 2001 to fit in with other trade fairs and exhibitions in Italy and abroad and that it was impossible to move them.

Commenting on the state of the calendar so far — the official schedule will probably be released in the first week of February — Boselli said he was pleased. “We finally achieved what we’ve wanted for so long: Shows are more spread out during the week, not crammed in a few days around the [powerhouse] designers,” he said. “The calendar is more balanced, and the week is all strong.”

Boselli noted that more designers have asked to move earlier in the week, possibly a result of Armani, Prada and Gucci showing at the beginning of the week. Prada shows Tuesday, Feb. 24, after Bottega Veneta.Representatives for other designers insist they aren’t concerned about the Gucci show, but it is the only blockbuster scheduled for Wednesday; the other shows that day include Max Mara, Pucci, La Perla, Byblos and Dolce & Gabbana’s D&G. It’s bound to be one of the emotional highlights of the week and of the entire season as Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole bring down the curtain on their reign at the brand.

The additional complications in the Milan calendar have created more grumbles than usual, especially since it will mean U.S. buyers and press will have to be in Milan longer. Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue [which, like WWD, is owned by Advance Magazine Group], wrote to the Italian Chamber of Fashion last fall urging it to consider moving the Milan show dates to avoid conflicting with the Oscars. Wintour’s fear was that the shows would get overwhelmed by coverage of what is often referred to as the world’s biggest fashion event.

Despite rumors in Milan that Wintour was still lobbying the designers there about the schedule, a spokesman for Vogue said that she has done nothing beyond the initial letter. “That was the end of any campaigning or any remarks,” he said. “She hasn’t done anything since.”

But American buyers remain concerned — especially since the euro’s strength against the dollar will make every day in Milan dearer than ever.

“Elongating the trip mitigates the profitability, and the longer we are away [from our store], the more our ship drifts — not what we want in this economy,” said Janet Brown, owner of the eponymous store in Port Washington, N.Y. “I don’t appreciate that the shows are so spread out; this is not a holiday and I think it’s all unfair and insensitive, in addition to being extraordinarily expensive.

“It’s like ‘The Longest Day’ movie,” she quipped. Brown said she will have to “eliminate” some shows. “I can’t be away longer than 13 days, including Paris,” she added.

Douglas Chen, buyer and manager at the Linda Dresner stores in New York and Birmingham, Mich., said he and owner Linda Dresner will arrive on Feb. 25 and will leave on March 2. “We write the ones we write, but are happy to see the shows that are held when we are [in Milan] — we would rather accommodate longer hours in one day,” said Chen. “We really need to be in the store every day.”Buyers also will have to cope with more entrants to the already crowded Milan schedule.

Bottega Veneta will probably be held on the evening of Feb. 24 at the company’s Milan showroom, where a large part of the building is being reconfigured. This is a different take for creative director Tomas Maier, who has so far opted for discreet presentations.

“We feel press and retailers by now appreciate the unique make and quality, the luxury and intricacy of our products, and we are confident that they are familiar with what Bottega Veneta stands for,” said Maier. “It’s time to move ahead and evolve, a must in fashion.”

Although Maier did not disclose details, he said this will not be a traditional show. “It’s more of what one would expect from Bottega Veneta, with a specific focus on the product,” he said, adding that he had been thinking about a show for the past year.

Gilles Rosier will introduce his first signature collection, after 12 years working at Jean Paul Gaultier and three at Kenzo. The Rosier brand is controlled by the Italian clothing manufacturing company Miroglio, which, in 2002, had sales of about $1 billion. “It was easier for us to show in Italy rather than in France, as our business is based here and this is also a way for Gilles to pay homage to the company that supports him,” said Mauro Davico, head of communication at Miroglio, which produces and distributes the Rosier line.

The show will not be held at the fairgrounds. “We are looking at a historical palazzo and aiming at showing either Feb. 27 or 28,” said Davico, adding that the collection will comprise 60 looks, a mix of high-end and couture style and is“not provocative.”

Rosier just opened a showroom in Milan and one in Paris. Miroglio this month will open a showroom in New York and plans to expand its Elena Miro’ and Caractere lines in the U.S. in 2004. “As Miroglio, we’ve always had presentations, but we respect the designer’s will and his past experience with the shows, a means to express his talent,” said Davico.Massimo Ferretti, chairman of Aeffe SpA, the luxury goods group that acquired Pollini in 2001 and also produces Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, Narciso Rodriguez and Gaultier, said last week’s appointment of Rifat Ozbek as creative director of Pollini’s women’s clothing line is the “finishing and definitive touch for the relaunch of the brand.”Pollini launched a rtw collection for spring-summer 2003. The brand was originally focused on footwear and accessories, but Aeffe has expanded production to men’s and women’s clothing and focused on retailing. Last year, Pollini boutiques opened in Paris, Moscow, Lugano, Switzerland and Guangzhou, China, in addition to the existing 21 stores. The company plans to open a boutique in Shanghai in March.

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