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Armani to Renzi, Fashion titan to Italy's presumed new leader: fashion needs action not words

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MILAN - Milan and Rome are Italy's yin and yang: fashion capital, political capital, their fates entwined.

This week, while Milan revels in what it does best, showing off its Made in Italy ready-to-wear fashion to the world, Rome is mesmerized by the rapid rise of Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi who confirmed Friday that he has formed a new government.

Though one capital is viewed as productive and the other as entrenched, Italy's fashion world is mindful that whatever is decided in Rome is crucial to the industry's global competitiveness.

Giorgio Armani says he expects "real attention" from the new government -- action not talk. On the policy front, he would like to see politicians bring down the cost of labour in the name of preserving the Italian know-how.

"If China can make plastic jewelry for 30 euros, why do we have to pay 150 euros in Italy," Armani asked during a chat with reporters after his Emporio Armani preview show.

Emporio Armani joins Blumarine, Etro and Versace in showing their wears Friday, the third day of Milan Fashion Week.

More highlights:

SENSUAL POWER

Donatella Versace's womenswear collection for next winter tells a story of a woman who battles and emerges victorious.

The story starts with a simple female warrior, a soldier low in the ranks with just a smattering of gold buttons on the bias-cut uniform, snug-yet-modest dress.

The mood intensifies with double-breasted military style coat with epaulets, a short colored fur with metal buttons down the V-front, a cropped military jacket worn with slim trousers and satin-finish dress capes. And the collection wraps up with form-fitting sensual silky dresses worn with gold-embroidered macrame sashes and one big golden medal, Olympic style. Her victory is clear.

The bling in the collection is at a minimum for Versace and the message is clear: power comes from within.

EAST MEETS WEST

BluMarine designer Anna Molinari has seemingly set out to preserve Italian craftsmen singlehandedly by dint of her elaborately embroidered collection.

Golden needlework adorned midnight blue suits and sweeping robes. Jacquard lame highlights are woven into evening wear. Sequins are sewn into jewel-colored dresses, one a mini and one a snug gown with blousy top.

The collection evokes Japan, in its kimono colours and floral prints as well as the subtle addition of understated Obi belts, while retaining contemporary Italian fashion in the supple leather jumpsuits, tuxedo accents on silky pantsuits and thigh-high boots. Molinari dubbed the collection "unexpected heritage."

NOMADIC LOOKS

Veronica Etro infuses the label's trademark paisley print with an exoticism in a collection of ethnically inspired looks.

Etro seems to have taken the globe up in her sweep, with plaids reminiscent of the Scottish highlands, shawls that suggest the Andes and Oriental accents on sheer tops that evoke an East-West travel route. The silhouette is flowing and the clothes easy to wear. A blanket shawl with fringe finish is worn over printed skirts with boots. Short, wide trousers are worn with a boyish patchwork knit sweater.

Embroidery, lame and jacquard are employed generously. The colours are warm, mostly Earthy tones, like Bordeaux, rust and mustard, with very little black. Looks are finished with folksy bracelets and necklaces -- or a scarf nearly long enough to brush the floor.

Etro said the collection was "like a clash, a melting pot of different nomadic cultures."

TEAM ARMANI

Armani is at every home game for the Emporio Armani Milano basketball team, and what goes around comes around: the team came out to support him at the Emporio Armani show on Friday.

"He is always sitting there, in the front row, and he is cheering us and supporting us," said forward David Moss. "That's big when you have an owner like that, who is involved."

And he happens to design a great fitting jacket, too, one that Moss noted fits his 6-foot-5-inch (1.96-meter) frame. "It is awesome," Moss said.

Armani's involvement with sport doesn't end there. He also designs the uniforms for the Italian Olympic team, including the athletes competing in Sochi.

Italian Alpine skier and Christof Innerhofer, who was at the show Friday, went to Sochi with the 50-piece Armani kit, and came home an Olympic champion with a silver and gold. "The Games were great," he said, unsurprisingly.

LA FEMME NIKITA

She's Nikita, a femme fatal, short black hair tusseled and worn at times under a distinctive felt hat.

The Emporio Armani Nikita wears smart wide-legged pants with youthful accents like pearls that lighten up the dark palate and playful, if ironic, ties out of Plexiglas. The wide pants are a replacement for the long skirt, which Armani says the young women he targets with the Emporio line look at as something from the past.

While the designer acknowledged that the runway collection was "put together in a way that projects a strong attitude," the pieces, in their singularity, are soft, appealing and wearable for women of any age.

The colour palate is black and white, which can be a metaphor for the way masculine and feminine pieces in the collection interact. Offering contrast is a cold turquoise.

Armani says no one should consider Emporio "a second line." The designer said he reworked the collection eight times.

"There is a crazy amount of work," he said.

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