MILAN (AP) — Milan Fashion Week got off to an energetic start Wednesday, and not only on the runways where the clothes were seductive and sexy while flirting with romantic notions of femininity.

The Milan Fashion Chamber, working with local officials, has launched a series of initiatives to vitalize fashion week, including an opening-night concert at La Scala, a pair of fashion exhibits and more attention to promoting young designers.

"Hopefully, international guests will appreciate the new energy permeating Milan Fashion Week," the city's top fashion official, Cristina Tajani, told reporters at a Conde Nast event to award five Italians with scholarships in fashion, film, art and journalism at Italian institutions.

Giorgio Armani, the designer whose tailored styles helped put Milan on the international fashion map, says Italian fashion needs to stick to its roots.

"Italian fashion is the best in the world, that's it," Armani was quoted this week by the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore as saying. "We should all be working to bring back the energy and the excitement that created the Made in Italy phenomenon in the early 1980s."

Milan Fashion Week is trying to shake off a sense of malaise, deriving from competition from other fashion capitals that leverage on their inherent appeal, Italy's ongoing economic that has dampened domestic market and a general weakening of the fashion system.

Designers shied away from pants for next summer's looks for women, offering a range of wearable dresses and skirts for any occasion and for anyone who is at least young at heart.

Yes, there were sheer fabrics and cropped tops, but they were accompanied by more modest flowing dresses and flouncy skirts. Creative emphasis was on the romantic rather than the raunchy, with colorful embellishments distracting from the risque cuts.

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GUCCI

The Gucci summer collection for 2014 was more about hot styles than hot weather, combining see-through fabrics with plunging necklines, bare backs and slit thighs.

The almost-all black collection — with spurts of iridescent color and gold embroidery — was accompanied by elastic-strapped footwear with metallic cone-shaped heels, right off bondage street.

In her show notes, Gucci's creative director, Frida Giannini, said she was inspired by active wear for her "seductive and sensual woman."

There were the maxi T-shirts, bomber jackets, sweat pants and linear embroidery typical of sportswear, but Gucci's pleated chiffon, sequins and netting were definitely for "apres-gym."

The latest Gucci bags looked to please all types. It came as a maxi clutch, a shopper or a small shoulder bag in black or bright colors, in luxurious python or simple suede, accompanied by a long draping fringe.

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ALBERTA FERRETTI

Alberta Ferretti creates pretty folkloric looks for next summer with ribbons, embroidery and applique flowers.

The collection was reminiscent of a sunny Mexican fiesta. The lines were romantic with room for spice. Long peasant skirts were paired with demure cropped tops, adorned with colored satin ribbons woven through waistlines, applique flowers gracing necklines and embroidery circling hems.

The colorful accents get the most play on chiffon white or black outfits, but Ferretti's palette also included natural shades of leaf green, cornflower blue and coral red. Ferretti shied away from pants, offering instead skirts of all persuasion: lacey, ruffled, pleated, anything went as long as it was feminine and flouncy.

Hair was pulled back and sometimes braided to accentuate the romantic mood. Ballerina shoes featured ribbons wrapped around the ankles, to dance the night away.

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DSQUARED2

Dean and Dan Caten harken to the simplicity of the techno-color 1950s and early 1960s when "fashions were gay and colorful," for next summer's looks for women.

The DSquared2 collection was decidedly sexy with a wink at bygone notions of modesty. Hour-glass figures are amply rewarded here.

Many of the looks centered around the idea of swimwear -- although the fabrics and accents, including raffia, sequins and beading, were too precious to actually take a dip -- and would look swell on the frolicking girls who populated Elvis Presley's colorful beach films "Fun in Alcapulco" or "Blue Hawaii."

One-piece swimsuits were laced up the back and had a short, skirted hemline. Bikinis were pure 1950s, featuring high-waisted bottoms and seductively pushed-up tops.

Oversized sunglasses, sometimes with cat frames, bangles of every sort and bell-shaped raffia hats finished the looks. Shoes were sling-backs or strappy stilettos.