Armani to hold runway show in empty theatre due to new virus

MILAN (AP) – In a last-minute change, Giorgio Armani is holding his Milan Fashion Week runway show behind closed doors yesterday due to concerns raised by the coronavirus, and instead stream the event from inside the empty showroom.

The fashion house said in a statement yesterday that ‘’the decision was taken to safeguard the well-being of all his invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces”.

A dozen towns in northern Italy have gone on effective lockdown after the deaths of two people infected with the new virus from China. Milan is the capital of Italy’s Lombardy region, which reported 54 confirmed cases.

Milan’s mayor on Saturday shuttered public offices. But runway shows continued apace for their fourth day, with most of the fashion crowd taking an analytical attitude to the rapidly spiking infections.

“For the moment the situation is under control,’’ said the president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber, Carlo Capasa. He added it was up to government officials or fashion houses themselves to decide if additional measures were needed.

Yesterday was the fifth day of womenswear previews for next fall and winter, with eight other shows scheduled, including Dolce & Gabbana. It was not clear if the other shows would go on as scheduled. Several shows are also scheduled today, before the fashion world moves on to Paris.

Models wear Salvatore Ferragamo women’s Fall Winter 2020-21 collection, unveiled during the Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. PHOTO: AP

Armani was forced to show behind closed doors one other time, in Paris in 1998, when officials said there were insufficient safety exits inside a huge tent being used as the venue to allow the public to attend. Only his team and one video camera was present, and a video of the show was later distributed to fashion editors. Armani later showed the entire collection in New York in protest, claiming that fashion world politics and not just safety concerns had led to the officials’ call.

On Saturday, MIDO, the world’s largest eyewear industry fair, announced that it would postpone the gathering scheduled for February 29-March 2 until June due to concerns over the virus.

“The evolution of this health crisis under way in our country does not leave any doubt over our decision,’’ MIDO president Giovanni Vitaloni said in a statement.

With the evolution of the virus still uncertain, fashion houses remain worried about the longer-term economic impact. Chinese consumers at home and abroad are responsible for one-third of global luxury sales. The Italian fashion chamber has already forecast a two per cent contraction in first-half revenues.

‘’I think we have to live day by day because it is beyond our control,’’ Ferruccio Ferragamo, son of the late Salvatore Ferragamo, said at the brand’s Saturday’s runway preview. ‘’We try to do our best with heart and head, everything in order to get over this.’’

He said the brand is maintaining close contact with its people in China.

‘’I think that if we are very ‘foot on the ground,’ we will benefit later,’’ Ferragamo said.

Giorgio Armani also expressed longer-term uncertainty. ‘’We don’t know when we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief,’’ the designer said.

Armani said the challenge for businesses won’t end when the virus stops spreading. At that point, fashion companies will need to renovate stores and ‘’again create enthusiasm among the people,’’ he said after the Emporio Armani preview on Friday.