Giorgio Armani held its Milan Fashion Week show to an empty room while Dolce & Gabbana took a less drastic approach and held their events as planned

Giorgio Armani held its Milan Fashion Week show behind closed doors on Sunday after Italy announced a spike in Covid-19 cases and imposed lockdown measures in some areas. Italy has confirmed 152 cases of the virus, including three deaths linked to it, and has imposed travel and movement restrictions for tens of thousands of residents in several northern towns.  

Most of Italy's cases are centred around Codogno, about 70 kilometres southeast of Milan. Anxiety over the outbreak—which has killed more than 2,400 and infected some 80,000 people, mostly in China—crept onto the catwalk as Milan closed its five-day fashion week on Sunday. 

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A model presents a creation for Chinese designer Han Wen's Fall - Winter 2020 collection, as part of the "China, We are With You" fashion event, kicking off the fashion week in Milan on February 18, 2020. - Milan Fashion Week kicks off on February 18, but coronavirus proves to damper the celebration of fashion and business, with thousands of Chinese designers, buyers and journalists abandoning the trip. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
Above Han Wen Autumn/Winter 2020 women's collection fashion show in Milan. (Image: Andreas Solaro/AFP)

China accounts for over a third of global luxury consumption and the crisis has already cost Italy's fashion sector millions of euros. But the show went on, and for five days, Italy's biggest fashion names such as Armani, Fendi, Prada, Versace and Gucci showcased their Autumn/Winter 2020 women's collections. 

The event began last Tuesday evening with a "China, We are With You" fashion show from Chinese designer, Han Wen, who is based in New York. Amid the 56 shows, 96 presentations and some 40 events planned through Sunday in the hub of Italian fashion, the three Chinese designers with fashion shows scheduled—Angel Chen, Ricostru and Hui—have pulled out. Italy was the first European country to ban all flights to and from China last month. 

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Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani acknowledges applause following the presentation of Emporio Armani's Women Fall - Winter 2020 fashion collection on February 21, 2020 in Milan. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
Above Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani at the Emporio Armani Autumn/Winter 2020 women's collection fashion show in Milan. (Image: Andreas Solaro/AFP)

Giorgio Armani said it would hold its womenswear show to an empty room as a precaution. "The decision was taken to safeguard the well-being of all his invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces," the brand said in a statement on Saturday. The show, scheduled for 1600 GMT Sunday, was livestreamed on its website, Instagram and Facebook pages instead.

Elsewhere at Milan Fashion week Italian designer Laura Biagiotti cancelled her show, while some attendees donned face masks. The decision was praised by some. "I am happy that Giorgio Armani today has decided, together with the Biagiotti line... not to do the parades in the usual way but to do them behind closed doors," said fashion critic Eva Desiderio.  

Dolce & Gabbana took a less drastic approach and held their events as planned. But for some attendees, the thought of being crammed into shows and parties was enough to spark anxiety. "We've all been in contact with hundreds of people, it gives me chills to think of all these interactions," said a woman working in the Fendi showroom. 

Despite fears gripping some crowds, many of Saturday night's dinners and parties were well attended, including Bottega Veneta's fete celebrating its collection unveiled earlier in the day. Some journalists covering the event warned of hysteria setting in. "The concern over the virus is becoming alarmist. We have to be careful to not give into the panic," said one journalist from an Italian fashion publication. 

Over 50,000 residents in 11 towns in northern Italy are effectively under quarantine after Italy confirmed two deaths from Covid-19 on Friday and Saturday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the lockdown measures could last for weeks. On Sunday, Italy reported that a third citizen, an elderly woman with cancer, died after contracting the virus.

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