Luxury menswear leaders hope for recovery

Models display creations as part of the Missoni collection in downtown Milan. (REUTERS)

As Milan kicked off the fashion action of 2010 yesterday, luxury groups are focusing on winning back consumers as they emerge from the worst economic crisis in decades which has sapped demand for designer clothes, shoes and accessories.

Over the next three days, designers will present their menswear collections for next winter, hoping for a recovery in the crisis-hit demand for clothes and accessories. Alongside showroom collection presentations, male models will strut down the catwalk in just under 40 shows for Milan's autumn/winter 2010-2011 fashion week, which began yesterday.

The international fashion pack will descend on the Italian fashion capital, which is especially renowned for its "Made in Italy" tailored suits and leather shoes, made by world-famous names such as Giorgio Armani and Ermenegildo Zegna.

"Milan's menswear will contribute in accelerating the recovery trend, which was too weak in the last part of the year," Mario Boselli, the head of Italy's National Chamber of Fashion, was quoted as saying in daily Corriere della Sera.

A tepid recovery is seen in global luxury sales this year, sector experts have said.

The menswear market has not been spared by the economic turmoil and with the financial sector hit hard, suit and tie sales have suffered.

Turnover for Italian menswear is seen falling nearly 10 per cent to €8.3 billion (Dh43bn) in 2009, according to Sistema Moda Italia (SMI), which represents the clothing and textiles industry.

SMI says Italy's fashion sector will emerge from the crisis before others but the government needs to help companies be more competitive.

Increasingly attentive to the internet and its strong prospects for growth, many traditional houses have turned to web to try to grab consumers before they enter their stores and the passion for online fashion will continue at the menswear shows.

The doyen of Italian fashion Giorgio Armani will stream his Emporio Armani show live on the brand's website live.emporioarmani.com as well as the group's Facebook page. British house Burberry will also stream its show live with online viewers able to comment on the show in real time live.burberry.com.

Meanwhile, designer duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have been sharing the preparations for their Dolce & Gabbana show via their online magazine Swide (www.swide.com).


Zegna pins hopes on China

Ermenegildo Zegna, which has been making luxury men's clothing for a century, expects to post sales growth this year after 2009's slump, boosted by Chinese demand for its casual clothing.

"Overall in the sector, there are signs of improvement and I expect low single-digit growth in revenues from high single-digit declines in 2009," Chief Executive Officer Ermenegildo Zegna said yesterday in an interview in Milan. "Greater China will become our most important market this year."

Zegna will open four flagship stores in China this year, the CEO said.

Luxury goods companies including LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Prada have been building their retail networks in emerging markets, particularly China, to tap increasing demand. The Chinese luxury market is worth about €6.6 billion (Dh34bn), consulting firm Bain & Company estimates.

Global sales, excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, in the €153bn luxury goods industry may grow one per cent this year from an estimated eight per cent decline in 2009, Bain estimated in October.

Zegna, which showed its fall 2010 collection in Milan yesterday, said revenue in emerging markets including Brazil, India and China grew to more than 30 per cent of sales in 2009 and helped offset declines in more mature luxury markets such as the US and Europe. South Korea was also showing good signs of growth, while the United States, Japan and Spain had been hardest hit, he said.

The Milan-based maker of $1,500 suits had a revenue of €870.6 million in 2008 and has not yet disclosed 2009 sales. There are "signs of life" in the US market, he added, as shoppers are more willing to pay.

 

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