- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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.

ROMANTIC NATURALISM

Alberta Ferretti’s looks appear to have sprung from the woodlands, crafted from feathers, finished in fur and draped in romantic lace.

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