Italian fashion group Valentino ditched the glitzy setting of central Paris for a foundry on the outskirts of Milan to present its latest collection, a rare live catwalk in the time of COVID-19 with a restricted group of mask-wearing guests.
The show brought down the curtain on Milan fashion week, which has hosted a mix of physical and virtual catwalks for its first edition since coronavirus restrictions made the heady mix of glamour, celebrity and hype at such events more complicated.
Valentino had never presented a women’s collection in Milan, and its last menswear show in Italy’s fashion capital was in 2007.
“In normal times we’d be in Place Vendome in Paris, but now here we are all wearing face masks,” the brand’s designer Pierpaolo Piccioli told reporters after the show.
“When, in late August, we decided to go ahead with the catwalk, it seemed appropriate to support Italy at such a difficult time and give our backing to the Italian fashion system.”
Piccioli picked non-professional models for the show, which combined men’s and women’s designs for Spring/Summer 2021, casting 66 youths in the streets of Milan, Paris and London in a nod to diversity. Some 200 guests attended, or about one-fifth of the usual audience for Valentino’s ready-to-wear shows.
To live music by British singer Labrinth, they strutted the runway in a series of black and white short dresses, brightly coloured, ruffled chiffon robes, silk overcoats with flower prints, as well as lace and crochet daywear.
There were also jeans as part of a collaboration project with Levi’s to revive the classic 517 boot cut model made popular in the late 1960s.
The first country to be hit hard by the virus in Europe, Italy enforced one of the strictest and longest lockdowns from early March. Now new infections are just under 2,000 a day, steadily rising again, but below levels seen in France, Spain and Britain.
Its fashion and textile industry, which with a turnover of 95 billion euros ($98 billion) and 600,000 workers is the second most important nationwide, is reeling from a plunge in sales.
According to business lobby Confindustria, exports of women’s fashion fell by 24% in the six months to June.