Milan Fashion Week cut short by virus, opens with 16 shows

MILAN (AP) — Milanese fashion houses were charting a course out of the pandemic that this month included a menswear calendar packed with enough live events to entice fashionistas to book transatlantic flights again . But that was before the omicron surge.

Milan Fashion Week previews for Fall/Winter 2022-23 open on Friday with far fewer physical events than originally planned, and access to these is severely limited by pandemic restrictions, as the number of virus infections in Italy hits record highs almost daily.

Global powerhouses like Zegna, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada will still host live shows, but Milan stalwart Giorgio Armani has canceled entirely and other brands have ditched shows for digital. The more than 40 live events planned have been cut by a quarter, with 16 live parades taking place alongside physical presentations.

“The positive thing is that many important brands have decided to hold fashion shows, and that’s a good sign,” said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion. “Fashion is the second most important industry in Italy. It is important to remember that we have to live with this virus, and that we have to find a way to protect people’s health while continuing to work, to allow this industry to continue to function. »

Paris is also confirming a slimmed-down selection of shows from January 18-23, followed by haute couture, while London has canceled its January schedule, which will be combined with women’s previews in February.

The Italian fashion scene has been rocked by the pandemic since Italy recorded the first locally transmitted case of the virus in the West in the middle of fashion week in February 2020. Armani was the first to close its showroom in a live audience, broadcasting the Fall/Winter 2020-21 collection from an empty theater.

The digital trend continued, with a handful of exceptions on the live catwalks, until last September’s womenswear previews for Spring Summer 2022, when vaccination rates announced a return to live broadcasts as a rule, but with limited numbers and social distancing. It was enough to offer promises that fashionistas in something closer to pre-pandemic numbers could pack runway seats again, where they could discern firsthand whether that shimmering fabric is silk or satin.

For this edition, travel restrictions and concerns mean many publishers and buyers who intended to travel to Milan this month have canceled, especially from the United States, Capasa said. In addition, swathes of Asia and Eastern Europe – important fashion markets – are administering vaccinations not approved by European health authorities, limiting travel to Italy.

To engage those making the trip, luxury brands like Brunello Cucinelli and Kiton have added physical presentations to their digital shows.

Under current health guidelines, fashion houses must allow each guest four square meters (just over 40 square meters) – a space that previously could accommodate up to eight. In many cases, that means something like a tenth of the pre-pandemic audience, requiring tough calls even as fewer people travel.

In addition, more protective FFP2 masks are needed and rapid tests will be available for those who want them. The places will be completely disinfected before the shows.

In terms of fashion, the pandemic is now in its eighth season. Capasa noted with satisfaction that no outbreak has ever been attributed to fashion week.

“We have to learn to live with this virus and maintain a high guard over behaviors,” Capasa said. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that you have to think very quickly and adapt to the situation.”

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