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Italian designers celebrate sartorial craft at Milan shows

By Antonella Ciancio

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian designers put craftsmanship before reckless glamour at the Milan fashion week, in a bid to defend their tailoring tradition in the face of global competition.

Fashion houses PPR's Bottega Veneta, Roberto Cavalli and Ermanno Scervino on Saturday proposed sculpted flannel coats and steel-embroidered dresses for their 2013-14 autumn-winter collections.

"I am based in Florence because this is where I find a know-how that I don't find anywhere else," Scervino told Reuters in the backstage of his packed show.

Both Scervino and Cavalli dedicated their events to Florence, a city famous for its artisanal leather goods, also the signature lines of Italian fashion giants Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci.

"What does art represent for a Florentine? A sense of place, a form of nostalgia, a necessity, a consequence," Cavalli said in a statement to accompany his show, attended by American singer Janet Jackson.

The Florence-based designer, known for his leather-fringed dresses in animal prints, said he was inspired by floral motifs by 16th century painter Caravaggio for his classic collection.

The city of Florence was also projected on the backdrop of Scervino's catwalk, where models wore masculine grey flannel coats cut close to the waist to add femininity.

Tomas Maier, creative director at Bottega Veneta, cut vertical lines into thick flannel coats to add movement to the sculpted forms.

"The collection is about proportion, precision, ease, and the simple beauty of the material," Maier said in a statement.

Bottega Veneta, whose "intrecciato" woven leather bags are priced from around 5,000 euros, also explores new uses of fabric to make unique pieces.

Italian fashion houses, the world's biggest producers of luxury goods with France, are renowned for their craftsmanship but they are facing a shortage of skilled workers which is putting their historic brands at a competitive disadvantage with low-cost production centres.

At the same time, cheaper production centres in Asia and Africa are improving as buyers from developing economies develop a taste for high-quality goods.

(Reporting by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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