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Fashionably virtual

Milan, Paris scratch in-person spring runway shows due to coronavirus

MILAN (AP) — No traffic jams, no rush to the next venue, no front rows — not even socially distanced. Milan Fashion Week is unfolding entirely on computer screens and social media platforms this round for the first time ever, as the persistent virus resurgence dashed any hopes of even a handful of physical shows.

Luxury is in an enforced period of evolution in this new world order of rotating lockdowns, where virtually no one has anywhere to go. So it was a mostly captive audience that flocked to social media by the hundreds of thousands (and counting as the shows live on virtually) to watch Milan designers unveil new menswear collections for next winter, which, vaccines willing, may see a return to in-person shopping.

In its digitally conceived preview, Prada introduced the new anti-uniform that speaks to our new intimacy in our ever-tighter circles: luxury long-johns.

The first menswear collection by the Miuccia Prada-Raf Simons collaboration announced almost a year ago was unveiled on a runway traversing spaces clad in soft faux fur in purple, celeste and scarlet. Skinny men in tight knit union suits in graphic architecture-inspired patterns grooved in outtakes spliced into the runway show.

The union suits emphasized both the human body and freedom, elements fundamental to the collection, the designers said in notes. They were worn tightly under oversized coats and huge V-neck sweaters, or as a layer of comfort under a work suit, should the occasion arise.

“It is not often we find in fashion something that’s so flexible, with so many facets,” Prada said in a video conversation with international fashion students. “With one piece you can express so many things, leaving open many possibilities.”

The designers said their still-new collaboration was based on the principle: if the other didn’t like an idea, it gets dropped. Or the other is won over, which was the case with Prada accepting pinstripes she has long loathed. “What I think is good, is the possibility to change my mind,” Prada said.

The show, like others, was broadcast on a maxi-screen in the heart of Milan’s shopping district. But with the city and region around it plunged into yet another partial lockdown on Sunday, the previews attracted little notice. What energy was missing from the streets of Milan was recouped on social media.

Fendi, Etro and outdoor brand Kway intended physical shows with guests, but had to scale back to closed-door runways. Dolce&Gabbana canceled, saying the restrictions in place wouldn’t have allowed the necessary conditions for them to show.

Fendi’s collection, designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi, featured quilted pieces made for easy layering, in the spirit of comfort and cocooning. Etro’s paisley took on a casual flair, in silky tops or baggy trousers paired with crossbody bags and baseball caps. Kway’s rain slickers, trenches and parkas got their fashion cred from streaks bright color and varied silhouettes.

Now, more than ever, as people have more time at home to consider how they want to present themselves to the world, fashion is less about trends, and more about individuality.

“Everybody should follow themselves,” Prada said. “That for me is crucial, and fundamental. Clothes are an expression of your idea, of your personality … The clothes are at the service of your life, of the person.”

PARIS (AP) — Ending the confusion over the fate of Paris Fashion Week, French fashion’s regulatory body has said that this month’s Paris men’s and haute couture shows will be strictly audience-free over coronavirus fears.

The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode has told luxury houses they won’t be allowed to invite guests this season, after instruction by police.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the federation said Monday that “we confirm that there can be no public gatherings” at Paris Fashion Week, adding that “houses can still organize ‘real’ runway shows with models broadcast live, provided that their events take place behind closed doors.”

Although Paris is technically not in a lockdown, stringent restrictions limiting movements are in place nationwide, including a 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. curfew. Repeated failure to obey rules can lead to a six-month prison sentence.

France’s second lockdown ended Dec. 15, but restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and museums remain shuttered.

In respect to Milan Fashion Week, despite the best efforts of the Italian fashion council to maintain a minimum level of live shows, top brands have also opted to show their collections with no guests, journalists or photographers present.

The Lombardy region, where Milan is located, appears headed to another partial lockdown.

Fendi, Dolce&Gabbana and Etro all have said their shows won’t include guests. They were among four brands planning live shows this round. Representatives for K-way, the maker of high-end outdoor clothing that is scheduled to show, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Milan Fashion Week calendar was much scaled back from usual, with just 40 brands participating.

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