Italian fashion is back in business, although not a business as usual. At Dolce & Gabbana, guests accessorized their leopard-print cocktail dresses with embroidered black lace face masks. Social distancing meant Fendi could accommodate 130 guests in a venue that normally squeezes in 1,500, and when paparazzi asked Rita Ora to shuffle closer along the front row to Kim Jones, recently announced as the brand’s new designer, security swiftly intervened to ensure 2-meter distancing was resumed.
Fendi hosted a live show on Wednesday with a socially distant front row featuring “Normal People” star Paul Mescal. The theme was family and, fittingly, invitations came in the form of Fendi-branded pasta along with copies of designer Silvia Venturini Fendi’s grandmother’s lemon pesto recipe.
In five-inch heels and a lace pencil skirt, Milan is taking baby steps into the new normal. With supermodels on the catwalk and Paul Mescal in the front row, Fendi had flashbulbs popping at a fashion show for the first time since before lockdown.
With Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, and other Insta-famous US models unable to travel to Europe, Fendi recruited supermodels from other eras, including Penelope Tree, 70, and Yasmin Le Bon, 55. Dress codes were relaxed: Carine Roitfeld, the glamorous ex-editor of French Vogue, attended shows in jeans and T-shirts.
Dolce & Gabbana, longtime bastions of Milanese glitz and glamour, used remnants of fabric from past seasons to reduce the environmental impact of their show. Poplin, georgette, and chiffon became a “patchwork of Sicily”, which the designers said was “not throwing away the last thing … you might have old trousers, sweaters, shirts, and you can recreate from other things something new that is yours.”
Milan is the only one of the four catwalk capitals where fashion week is happening in its traditional form. Invitations have been sent out to 23 shows around the city over the next five days. New York held an almost entirely virtual fashion week; in London, most designers met small groups of editors to present their clothes. Next week’s Paris schedule has 20 shows planned but looks set to be a quiet affair, with few international visitors.
Milan’s shows are being celebrated as a landmark for a region that took the brunt of the initial impact of coronavirus in Europe. Little black dresses are the ceremonial robes of this business-orientated city. “Milan is fashion,” said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, at a recent press conference. The renaissance is all the more symbolic because it was at the city’s last fashion week in February that the old normal began to crumble. When Giorgio Armani canceled his show, it made headlines worldwide. Now, with Italy holding the line against a second wave more successfully than most of Europe, fashion week is a chance to show the world that the country is back in business.
When Milan Fashion Week comes to a close next week, 41 digital and 23 live shows will have been staged in the Italian city, where just last February news of one of the first outbreaks of coronavirus in Europe were reported, as the elite fashion showcase welcomed press, buyers, celebrities and fashion industry workers from all over the world, often sitting in close proximity for multiple hours at crowded events.
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