COVID-19 restrictions give Fashion Weeks a new look

A PERSON in the audience wears a mask as she attends the Dolce & Gabbana Autumn/Winter 2020 collection show during Milan Fashion Week in Milan, Italy, Feb. 23. — REUTERS

IT IS FASHION Week season, but thanks to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, things are going to be quite different.

Instead of packed shows, crowds of street-style photographers out front of the venues, and a schedule that has models rushing from one crowded backstage area to another, this year’s shows have been adapted to the needs of physical distancing — from shorter runs and using smaller, less crowded venues, to going full-on virtual and streaming the shows online.

Here is how New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week are adapting to the needs of the times to show the Spring/Summer Collections.

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) will look a little different this season, with the typical seven-day parade of events stripped down to five days because of COVID-19 restrictions, with online runway shows, and smaller, socially distanced audiences.

Host IMG said it had worked closely with the governor’s office to understand the protocols needed in order to have the shows running from Sept. 13-17.

“We evolved the event and our offerings to designers to be able to create an event that’s both safe and successful … and that allows consumers to tune in to watch and participate,” said global senior vice-president of marketing and brand strategy at IMG, April Guidone.

Highlights this season include Jason Wu, Rebecca Minkoff, and Christian Siriano, who will show from his Connecticut home. Partnering with US hardware store Lowes, each designer will create sets “with home decor products they found at Lowes.”

Spring Studios, the normal home of New York Fashion Week, is also adapting.

“We are offering the rooftop at Spring (Studios) to designers for more traditional runway shows that may have a very small and limited, socially distant audience,” said Ms. Guidone.

Designers will use the indoor venues that previously hosted large runway shows to debut their collections in new ways, such as by creating films or content for social media. “And then we’ll release that content on schedule as if it’s live,” Ms. Guidone said.

The content, along with panels and special events, will be broadcasted on The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has also created a new digital platform,, to air various runway shows.

Brooklyn-based model Anok Yai has been working in London since March and described the few shows she has done during the pandemic as “very strange.”

“Everything obviously is very spaced out,” said Yai, noting that in the past 100 people would be in one room doing hair and makeup, but now it is less than a dozen.

Milan Fashion Week is preparing a mix of live and virtual shows for its first edition since the coronavirus lockdown as designers and fashion houses seek to balance the buzz of the catwalk with precautions imposed by the global pandemic.

Unlike in Men’s Week in July, when with the exception of one open-air event by Dolce & Gabbana, Italy’s fashion industry opted for digital-only showings, a third of the 64 women’s and men’s spring-summer collection shows from Sept. 22-28 will be live with protective measures.

“It was a courageous choice,” Carlo Capasa, chairman of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber (CNMI), said on Thursday at a digital news conference.

But many major brands are opting for virtual or closed-door shows, accepting the loss of the live experience as the cost of keeping buyers and staff safe.

Fashion houses around the world have been experimenting with different formats as they seek to maintain the glamor and excitement of their catwalk shows in an era of face masks and social distancing.

Giorgio Armani, the first Italian designer who decided to show behind closed doors in February when the health crisis was beginning in Italy, announced two events for September, both without guests.

Emporio Armani collections will be presented digitally, while the group’s core brand, Giorgio Armani, will be broadcast on free-to-air television on Saturday evening with the aim of opening up to a wider public.

The long-awaited debut of Belgian designer Raf Simons alongside Miuccia Prada will also have no guests, with live streaming online, live private screenings and virtual viewing events in different cities around the world.

The COVID-19 emergency has also brought Italian brand Valentino to Milan from Paris. “We feel that it would be more ethical to produce the new show in Italy, in Milan,” Chief Executive Jacopo Venturini said. The group has not yet revealed how the show will be managed. — Reuters

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