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story.lead_photo.caption A model wears a creation as part of the Fendi 2021 women's spring-summer ready-to-wear collection during the Milan's fashion week in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

MILAN — The Italian fashion industry is moving to inject optimism into luxury's dismal year, staging 23 live runway shows and 37 presentations during a hybrid live-digital Milan Fashion Week that aims to excite consumers and connect with the buying network.

Fendi, Dolce&Gabbana and Blumarine open the first day of mostly womenswear previews for the next spring and summer on Wednesday. They will be joined later in the week by Max Mara, Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino, which decamped from Paris where it normally shows due to travel concerns related to the virus.

Milan stalwarts including Giorgio Armani, Versace and Prada, which is debuting its first collaboration between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, opted for virtual shows.

''I respect what the other brands decided to do, but we felt we needed to do a runway show'' said Nicola Brognano, who is making his runway debut as Blumarine's new creative director.

''We wanted to give a sign of positivity. We need a little normalcy. I don't think there has emerged a means of expression stronger than a runway show. It has everything.''

Within that, there are strict rules guiding the shows. Distance must be maintained backstage and in the shows. Models must wear masks during the lineup, before taking to the runway. And some fashion houses are asking attendees for self-declarations that they have not been exposed to the virus in the last two weeks and that they don't have symptoms.

The live shows themselves are an important bulwark against the economic toll of coronavirus, as fashion houses hope to create excitement around their collections and boost sales. Italy's fashion council is projecting a 29% decrease in revenues this year due to the coronavirus, which represents a nearly 50 billion-euro drop ($58 billion) in sales from last year.

''This has been the worst year ever,'' Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber said on Tuesday, ahead of the five days of previews. ''It is not just a local dimension, it is the whole world, markets closed, people at home, stores locked up. I don't remember anything like this.''

Capasa is expecting hundreds of buyers to attend the Spring-Summer 2021 previews — instead of the usual thousands. And even some of those arrivals were thrown into question by Italy's decision to add Paris to the list of places that require coronavirus testing on arrival.

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