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Touching down in Milan for its fall 2009 fashion week

February 25, 2009 |  6:30 pm

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle prada milan fashion week

MILAN -- After landing in Milan today, I made my usual pilgrimage to the original Prada store at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle Il, a beautiful shopping arcade near the Duomo. First thing I noticed was how bare the handbag shelves are this season compared with last. One of Miuccia Prada's themes for spring is snakeskin. She's selling not only real snakeskin bags, but recession-friendly printed nylon ones as well, which start in the 700 euro range. (Not cheap, but a heck of a lot cheaper than the real stuff.)

To get downstairs to the clothes I had to negotiate my way around five mannequins at the foot of the staircase, all clad in Prada's spring finery. Talk about in-your-face advertising.

Prada's louche, disheveled look for spring seems so out of place now. Intentionally wrinkled skirts and jackets that look as if they are half on and half off, and impractical, sky-high leather sandals are not the kind of clothes you wear to land a job or keep one. They're not timeless and they're not blissfully escapist either.

It's amazing what a difference the six-month lag from runway to store can make to a collection in this economic climate.

With my personal wardrobe, I've been reverting to the classics. I actually pulled out a purse in a traditional Burberry Nova check, and am loving carrying it. I wore L.L. Bean duck boots last weekend in Vermont. Tod's driving moccasins are looking good to me now, too, and nautical stripe T-shirts. Nothing that's a flash in the pan, which doesn't say much for fashion.

Usually, Milan Fashion Week includes some kind of store opening or re-opening party. But this season there is nothing. Armani is building a hotel on top of his Via Manzoni retail compound, but it won't be ready until next year.

Walking around his store today, and the rest of the luxury shopping district known as the Golden Triangle, I noticed fewer shoppers and fewer shopping bags. Tonight, while dining at the fashion haunt Da Ilia, I learned that the restaurant has served 1,000 fewer lunchtime meals this year than last year at this time. 
If lunch is a luxury people can't afford, designers are going to have a tough fall season ahead of them.

-- Booth Moore

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Photo credit: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele Il, home of the first Prada store. Wally Skalij/ Los Angeles Times

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