MILAN (AP) -- The fashion crowd moved on to Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday, leaving behind memories of snowy New York and rainy London.
Gucci, Alberta Ferretti and newcomer Fausto Puglisi launched six days of fashion previews for next fall and winter womenswear looks.
Fashion is Milan's main economic activity -- and designers mean business: The Milan runways showcase apparel, shoes and handbags that create revenues of some 15 billion euros ($20 billion), according to a new study for the business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, or one-quarter of Italy's entire fashion industry.
The good news for Italy's economy, which remains in the doldrums overall, is that fashion exports are on the rise, hitting a record 45 billion last year.
PROJECTING FEMALE POWER
Salma Hayek is all about female power. It's at the heart of the "Chime for Change" project she is running with Gucci designer Frida Giannini and singer Beyonce. And it is in the strong leather look she wore to Gucci's front row. Hayek wore a mod leather beret with a double-breasted leather jacket, skirt and black patent leather platform boots from Gucci's pre-fall 2014 collection. The look was set off with a purple python fringe shoulder bag.
Hayek hinted that there will be some news soon on the "Chime for Change" -- a Gucci project launched last year to promote education, health and justice for girls and women throughout the world.
On her movie career, Hayek says she starts work this spring on a new movie, "The Tales of Tales," by Italian director Matteo Garrone.
GUCCI'S LUSCIOUS TEXTURES
Hayek gushed over the softness of Gucci's lusciously textured looks for next winter -- from supple leather to shaggy fur.
"I love it. I want to touch everything. It's so soft, and so beautiful," Hayek said after the womenswear preview show for next fall and winter that marked the launch of Milan Fashion Week.
Giannini's looks for next fall and winter are soft in both color and mood -- even if sticking with decidedly Gucci and winter materials like leather and fur. The colors were snatched from your favorite Crayola box of yesteryear: cornflower blue, sage green, brushed pink blush -- set off by neutrals in tan, black and camel.
A-line Nappa leather mini dresses had ruffled fronts -- a testament to the suppleness of the materials. Waistlines were higher, and hemlines were short, showing off knee-high leather high-heeled boots. Suits were slim-fitting, contrasting nicely with shaggy colored furs that give a carefree flounce with every step. For evening wear, there were romantic leather mini-dresses with bejeweled tops -- worn with big crystal bracelets.
Alberta Ferretti's looks appear to have sprung from the woodlands, crafted from feathers, finished in fur and draped in romantic lace.
Ferretti said the looks were created "for women who are real and a little special."
She's a hunter: Wispy feathers formed a skirt while black feathers provide a sturdy armor for the breast. She's a romantic: draped in sheer pleated fabric accented with contrasting lace. She's practical nymph: woolen laden shifts provide sturdy elegance. She's a landscape itself: jacquard detailing form concentric circles that give shape and texture to a dress, finished at the hemline and neckline with tufts of feathers. Colors were earthy olive, orange, crimson and blues.
Ferretti completed the looks with strappy sandals were worn with ankle socks, or romantic ballerinas.
"Did you see life, movement?" Italian designer Fausto Puglisi asked back stage.
Puglisi's looks created a kaleidoscope of color as they moved down the black runway in the glare of half a dozen spotlights: triangles of red and blue, trapezoids of green, yellow, lavender -- all against a black background as if the shapes were performers on a stage.
The collection was as uplifting as a circus skit, yet with a rock 'n'roll edge -- evoked with spikes, studs and jewels. The strength of the collection was in the structure of the pieces. On one end of the spectrum was a pleated skirt that fans flat across the body, or another flat eye-shaped skirt suggestive of a costume in its Harlequin diamond pattern. There were also softer looks, silky shirts, soft sweaters worn with satiny pleated skirts.
The looks themselves projected varied lifestyles, from tough East Village rocker in leggings and a graphic T-shirt to Midtown professional in a belted sweater over a knee-length pleated skirt, yet all were united in their bold geometry and color scheme. Or, as Puglisi summed up the dichotomy, "polished vs. rebellious."
Puglisi, who is creative director for Ungaro in Paris and began last year showing his own line in Milan, credits his success to his experience in the United States, where he became a darling of the Hollywood crowd. He paid tribute in this collection with the Statue of Liberty featured as a recurring motif.