MILAN - Gucci kicked off Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday with models who looked like denizens of a luxurious opium den, with billowing see-through tops and Art Nouveau-style floral patterns.
Shimmering golds, azalea purples, lizard greens and salmon pinks were the dominant colours on the catwalk, all worn over fishnet black underwear with straps and belts left drooping.
Flowing nightgowns and veils featured strongly in a collection that appeared to reach further back from this year's Art Deco inspired fashions to the turn of the century and Orientalism.
Among those attending the show in Milan was French luxury tycoon Francois-Henri Pinault, the husband of actress Salma Hayek and the chief executive of the multinational Kering, which owns Gucci.
Also present were US actress Blake Lively and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour in her trademark sunglasses, as well as Russian luxury tycoon Mikhail Kusnirovich, a Milan regular.
Fashion week, which runs until Monday, will feature 74 catwalk shows ranging from familiar names like Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Prada and Versace to up-and-coming young designers.
Organisers have said they are aiming to inject more young talent into the industry, as it looks forward to 2014 when it hopes to shake off the recession.
While fashion giants have stayed buoyant thanks to booming sales in emerging markets, smaller labels have struggled after a plunge in the domestic market.
Mario Boselli, head of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion, which organises Milan Fashion Week, said the latest estimates point to turnover for the industry next year that will equal that of 2008, before the economic crisis.