By Isla Binnie
MILAN (Reuters) - Diaphanous dresses, nautical prints and angular tailoring drew Milan fashion week to a close on Monday after six days of catwalks and campaigning to promote the city's fashion industry as a bright spot in a gloomy local economy.
Veteran Italian designer Giorgio Armani presented sharp blazers, fitted shorts and floaty floral kaftans, topping off the show with flowing translucent dresses and large mortar board-style hats in fuchsia, black and bright blue.
The collection was imagined for a woman who is "a bit less constrained by the everyday... a woman who lives a life of her own", the designer told reporters backstage after the show.
Fashion house Frankie Morello decorated clothes with anchors and shells, and Gianfranco Ferre's tailored coats and dresses in neutral tones took inspiration from American photographer Herb Ritts.
The collections provided the finale to a week which has seen 74 official shows, store openings, and parties attended by celebrities including Cate Blanchett and Blake Lively.
"I think they were feeling a little squeezed by London, New York and Paris," Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour told Reuters, referring to three other cities which organize fashion weeks.
"There's a strong sense of everybody coming together and supporting Milan fashion, and I think it's really come through on the runways."
The fashion industry, comprised of clothing, footwear and leather goods, is a key driver of the Italian economy and trade body Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI) forecasts its turnover for 2013 to be 58.86 billion euros ($79.42 billion).
This figure represents a 2.5 percent drop from the previous year, but the rate of decline has slowed from 5.4 percent in 2012, solely thanks to foreign markets, the CNMI says.
Domestic consumption continues to fall and Italy, stuck in its longest recession since World War Two, is a challenging place to run a business, but its fashion industry is unrivalled, said Toni Scervino, chief executive of fashion house Ermanno Scervino.
"It's hard because there are so many taxes, so many problems, the logistics aren't there," Scervino told Reuters before his brand's show which featured its signature Swarovski crystal embellishments on denim and dresses.
"But it's possible because in Italy there's a quality of workmanship which doesn't exist elsewhere. And if you're looking for an excellent product you have it made in Italy."
The CNMI and Vogue also invited young designers to display their products during fashion week. Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive of French luxury group Kering was among attendees at a showroom dedicated to 16 young designers.
"What I think is important... to really help the economy is keeping the production here and keeping the creativity here, bringing young people," Franca Sozzani, editorial director of Italian Vogue, told Reuters.
Organizers do not say how many buyers attend the events, but the CNMI estimates fashion week brings 15,000 people to Milan.
($1 = 0.7412 euros)
(Additional reporting by Basmah Fahim; editing by Ralph Boulton)