When the novel coronavirus came to global attention in December, the last thing anyone was thinking was “How will this affect the upcoming fashion season?” However, in an odd turn of events, it’s the fashion industry that is suffering some of the harshest monetary ramifications of the virus’ outbreak.
With Milan Fashion Week now concluded, we look back and see that the last few days were etched with concern and disquietude as cases of the coronavirus saw a stark increase throughout Italy. Outside of Asia, Italy has become home to the highest concentration of infections, with 322 total cases and 11 confirmed deaths.
Although authorities did their best to allay public fear over the virus’ spread, it was clear that Milan Fashion Week was dealing with the fallout of civil unrest. Rather than taking note of the sartorial trends seen on A-listers going in and out of shows throughout the week, the media focused instead on what seems to be the hottest new accessory: the medical face mask.
Those in attendance at some of the most sought after luxury shows could be seen donning these masks, clearly uneasy about the state of public health in and around northern Italy. In a daring move, the night before the Giorgio Armani show, executives sent out messages to the
intended audience asking them not to attend but, rather, to watch the livestream of the pieces online. When asked about this bold choice, an Armani spokesperson stated “The decision was taken to safeguard the well-being of all his invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces.”
While Armani found a way around the strict parameters laid down in order to contain the potential spread of the virus, other designers were not so fortunate. Michael Kors shut down production of his highly-anticipated 007-themed runway show after being prevailed upon by local authorities to do so.
However, it’s not just the state of Milan Fashion Week that has been wreaking havoc on the industry. China is a hub for fashion manufacturing and production in addition to making up a large portion of luxury purchases in recent years. Without that business, the fashion sector is taking big hits and can expect even more in the weeks and, in general, year to come.
With Paris Fashion Week just kicking off, the tension is rising over public health concerns and whether it is safe to attend the festivities. When asked about the mounting threat of the coronavirus, a Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) spokesperson stated “We’re listening to the recommendations of health authorities and will share them with brands in case of any epidemic in France.”
It remains to be seen just how much industry damage will be sustained from the continued proliferation of the coronavirus. If it spreads half as fast as most fashion trends do, the concerns will certainly be justified. In any case, fashion week attendees are advised to employ safe health practices and proceed with caution in this time of growing uncertainty.
words Kate Macchi