MILAN - Giorgio Armani protege Angelos Bratis got Milan fashion week off to a seductive start with an ultra-feminine collection presented in Armani's own theatre.
The 36-year-old Greek is seen by some as a potential successor to the 80-year-old Armani, should the dean of Italian fashion decide to call time on the stewardship of his global style empire.
Anxious to make the most of the additional interest generated by Armani's sponsorship, Bratis restricted his show to a small selection of sensual evening dresses in featherweight textiles including crepe de Chine and silk twill.
Many of them featured bold geometric patterns and vivid splashes of colour, offsetting the understated palate of the materials.
Bratis said he had deliberately opted for a pared-down collection to make the most of his moment in the spotlight to promote his own singular style.
"There has been a lot of pressure and it has been a lot of hard work," the designer told AFP. "But Mr. Armani chose me because I have my own style and that is what I wanted to show.
"With all this attention from the press and buyers, I wanted to show to the people who don't know Bratis, what Bratis is.
"In one show they get all the codes - that is why I limited everything to only dresses, only technique." Global hemlines up or down? The trend is supposed to be a predictor of which way stocks are headed and there was a time when the only place to get a definitive answer to that question was Milan.
But, like its football teams, AC and Inter, Italy's economic epicentre is no longer quite the market-moving force it once was, when it comes to if-you-have-to-ask-the-price-you-can't-afford-it clothing.
The world of high fashion has moved on, globalised and diversified, and the competition has never been more ferocious.
New York is punching harder than ever on the back of a Stateside economic recovery that so far has eluded Italy and the rest of the eurozone.
London has ditched quirky-bizarre in favour of quirky-commercial and Paris is, well, Paris.
So there is a feeling among insiders that Milan has something to prove this week as the cream of Italian creativity presents its vision of what well-heeled women the world over should be wearing through the spring and summer of 2015.
Sign of the times, perhaps: this fashion week will not, as had become traditional, be brought to a close by Armani.
Instead the master of sartorial understatement has opted to show his eponymous collection on Saturday, apparently out of concern that the most influential opinionmakers in fashion may slip away early, before the week officially wraps up on Monday.
According to media reports, Armani's decision to pull out of the final day prompted some other leading houses to stamp their stilettos and insist on following suit, a state of affairs which has given the week a lop-sided look with the sixth and final day dedicated to new talent and devoid of a marquee name.
And the feeling that all is not absolutely fabulous in the upper echelons of the Italian style industry has been enhanced by an ongoing spat that means Dolce & Gabbana, one of the country's best known brands, will, once again, not be part of the official programme of shows.
Lionel Messi's favourite designers will nevertheless be showcasing their 2015 Spring/Summer collection on Sunday.
Gucci are the biggest hitters on the opening day, while Prada's new collection will be shown on Thursday.
Bratis, who was born and raised in Greece but studied and then honed his craft in the Netherlands, is the latest in a series of young designers who have benefited from Armani's sponsorship, following in the footsteps of other promising emerging talents including Stella Jean and Julian Zigerli.
Later in the week trendwatchers will be eyeing the collection of Elisabetta Franchi, a well-established designer of feminine workwear from Bologna who is putting on a Milan show for the first time, in the hope of bolstering the growing international reputation.