Season opens for UFOs and the fabulous: The international catwalk circuit begins today, with styles ranging from the sublime to the unidentifiable fashion object

AND WE'RE OFF. The fashion season, which will take us through Milan, Paris, London and New York, starts this morning at 10.30am Italian time. It finishes in Manhattan when Donna Karan walks out to take her after-show bow at some time after 6pm on 5 November.

What that means is a feast of fashion photographs in the next six weeks, some of which may be of daft mistakes (what the in-crowd call 'fashion don'ts' or 'UFOs', unidentifiable fashion objects) and some of which will be of desirable clothes (the kind the fashion crowd really do describe as 'absolutely fabulous').

So today, we start with Dolce & Gabbana, who dressed Madonna for her current Girlie tour, then to Max Mara for well-cut clothes for well-heeled women. And onwards through the king of high- voltage glamour, Gianni Versace, to Moschino, who is hosting a party for a 10- year retrospective exhibition called Kaos. Then a supper presentation of low-key clothes by Zoran, then Versace is holding a punk party for which the dress code is black leather. And that is just day one.

Who shows where and when has been the subject of intense negotiation. In Milan, Beppe Modense, who organises the show schedule for the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, has to balance the demands of the big guns with all the other designers.

He also has to balance Milan fashion week against that of Paris - which has now grown into fashion fortnight. He has complained that the French have edged their fashion showcase into Milan's time. Gianfranco Ferre, an important Milanese designer, set his show date for next Thursday three months ago. Fifteen days ago, the French disclosed they were starting shows a day earlier than planned.

The result: the British press will leave Milan before Ferre in order to report Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, Thierry Mugler and a host of other hot names on the opening day in Paris.

After Paris, London fashion weekend, which used to be sandwiched between Milan and Paris. Annette Worsley-Taylor, organiser of the London shows, feels confident about the later slot. 'People come to London for special, new things. We have the young designers that buyers opt for when they have done their major buying.'

And finally New York, where designers have banded together for the first time as a group called 7th on Sixth, that is Seventh Avenue on Sixth Avenue, where tents will be erected.

In Paris we will say goodbye to the tents. Next March, the fashion circus moves underground to a new complex being built under the Tuillerie gardens.

(Photograph omitted)

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