MILAN (Reuters) - Italian designer Giorgio Armani offered man bags and male models wreathed in smiles on the Milan runway for an increasingly fashion-conscious menswear market that is outpacing women.
Models for the youth-focused Emporio Armani men's line dispensed with the traditional moody catwalk scowl and clutched small handbags on Monday, underlining a growing confidence in the shopping power of the "feminized" male clotheshorse.
"This is the new fashion," Armani told reporters after showing his spring/summer 2014 collection. "I try to put in things that are usually identified with women."
The men's segment is worth around 41 percent of the luxury goods market - which was worth 26 billion dollars in 2012 - and is growing at a faster pace than the women's segment, according to Claudia D'Arpizio of management consultancy firm Bain.
"Men are becoming much more similar to women in the way they approach these fashion goods," said D'Arpizio, describing the shift as the "feminization of society".
"Now men - in particular the younger generation - are much more fashion aware and the real target for many of the luxury brands."
Italian fashion house Gucci, owned by recently renamed French group Kering, will open its first European men's flagship store in Milan this month, while Prada is due to open its largest men's only store in Milan this summer.
Gucci has kitted out its new 500 meter-square store in rosewood, ebony and marble, catering to men who now enjoy the experience of shopping.
"They are coming to browse and to look around and not only going direct for their purchase," said D'Arpizio.
In recognition of the growing similarities in behavior among their male and female customers, several designers included women on their Milan catwalks.
Andrea Pompilio's debut show featured men and women wearing indistinguishable bronze and navy blue-striped knee-length shorts, while Prada presented men and women in different outfits cut from the same cloth.
"They are changing the way they shop, for sure they have more freedom," designer Miuccia Prada told reporters.
British designer Vivienne Westwood's new collection, masterminded by her husband and creative director, Andreas Kronthaler, featured leather chokers studded with gemstones and heavy, opulent necklaces.
"I think men do really like to express their feminine persona," Westwood told Reuters.
"They love a bit of glitter."
(Reporting By Isla Binnie, editing by Paul Casciato)
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