MILAN (AP) Dean and Dan Caten warmly welcomed guests, including Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who gathered on Friday for the Canadian designer twins’ first live show in two years as Milan Fashion Week opened with a glow of optimism despite a shortened omicron -calendar.
The big deal is in this venue, they told the crowd in impromptu pre-show remarks for their DSquared2 label. Thank you for being there and supporting us in our decision to do a physical show. For us, this is a step forward.
It’s been two long years, and it feels good to be back, the twins intoned, before unveiling a colorful and cozy Canadian mix of quilted coats, quilted shorts over jeans, layered with delicate woolen blankets just the ticket to step out into the mix outdoors and away from the surging crowds.
The spike in the omicron variant forced Milan Fashion Week menswear previews for Fall/Winter 2022-23 to be scaled back, with far fewer events than originally planned. Access to these has been severely limited by pandemic restrictions, as the number of virus infections in Italy reaches record highs almost daily.
Global powerhouses like Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada will still host live shows, while Milan stalwart Giorgio Armani has canceled entirely and other brands have ditched shows for digital. The more than 40 live events planned have been reduced by a quarter, with around 15 live parades taking place alongside the physical presentations.
This is a far cry from the delta surge of last year, when the slopes in Milan were completely closed.
The positive thing is that many important brands have decided to hold fashion shows, and that’s a good sign, said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion. Fashion is the second most important industry in Italy. It is important to remember that we have to live with this virus, and that we have to find a way to protect people’s health while continuing to work, to allow this industry to continue to function.
As the pandemic continues to overshadow Europe, Paris also confirmed a slimmed down selection of shows from January 18-23, followed by haute couture, while London canceled its January schedule, which will be combined with female previews in February.
In Milan, the fashion crowd was surprised to find themselves in auditorium seats in front of a maxi-screen for the Zegna preview.
Instead of the live show many expected, creative director Alessandro Sartori showed a 15-minute video of models dressed in off-white, black and gray against a snowy road in the Zegna family’s Oasi nature reserve in the neighboring Piedmont. He followed with a technical presentation of the new looks with live models.
It’s 10% live and 90% virtual, Sartori told guests. It would have been the other way around if we hadn’t had these issues, he said, referring to the latest virus wave which has occurred in seemingly perfect symphony with the fashion calendar.
Zegna is changing its name, dropping founder Ermenegildo Zegna’s first name from its official name and merging its three lines, alongside its recent public listing on the New York Stock Exchange to fuel future growth. The new logo evoking the road with yellow markings on the ground means the main road that crosses the family reserve, but also the road to be traveled.
I’m sure no matter how bloody Covid is, it’ll be fine, said brand CEO Gildo Zegna defiantly.
Sartori has reinvented the suit for younger customers, offering a slightly fitted outer jacket, layered with a longer tunic and trousers, all in matching fabrics of different weights. A mock cashmere turtleneck unites them. In Sartoris’ vision, buyers of the luxury menswear line will build their wardrobes season after season, adding new pieces with the staple color palette of off-white, black and flannel gray offset this season. by aubergine and a shade of burnt shade which he called vicuña, for the camelid bred for its precious wool.
In contrast, the DSquared2 collection beckoned to the road in a more prosaic and carefree way. The layered looks, with cropped puffer jackets, plaid pleated skirt tails and sequined shorts, suggested hippies still looking for a traveling Grateful Dead show, but happy to pass the time rock climbing or hiking in the snow using removable crampons, a water bottle pushed into a front pocket.
The Canadians didn’t need any outdoor brand partnerships to show that the wilderness is in their DNA unlike another Milan brand.
Federico Cina launched his brand just before the pandemic hit, so perhaps it’s fitting that he made his track debut as the virus continued its grip. The longline silhouette features plump cable or ribbed knits that layer easily over wide-leg pants. The show’s first collection featured a leaf motif, taken from a woodblock print from the coastal areas of the Emilia-Romagna region.
I never thought about giving up, Cina said backstage. Especially since the fashion room offers me this moment of visibility during Milan Fashion Week. It’s just huge. I never thought about not doing the show, especially with the right precautions.
The Italian fashion scene has been rocked by the pandemic since Italy recorded the first locally transmitted case of the virus in the West in the middle of fashion week in February 2020. Armani was the first to close its showroom in a live audience, broadcasting the Fall/Winter 2020-21 collection from an empty theater.
The digital trend continued, with a handful of exceptions on the live catwalks, until last September’s womenswear previews for Spring Summer 2022, when vaccination rates heralded a return to shows in live as a rule, but with limited numbers and social distancing. It was enough to offer promises that fashionistas in something closer to pre-pandemic numbers could pack runway seats again, where they could discern firsthand whether that shimmering fabric is silk or satin.
For this edition, travel restrictions and concerns mean many publishers and buyers who intended to travel to Milan this month have canceled, especially from the United States, Capasa said. In addition, swathes of important fashion markets in Asia and Eastern Europe are administering vaccines not approved by European health authorities, limiting travel to Italy.
Under current health guidelines, fashion houses must allow each guest four square meters (just over 40 square meters) of space that previously could accommodate up to eight. In many cases, that means something like a tenth of the pre-pandemic audience, requiring tough calls even as fewer people travel. More protective FFP2 masks are needed.
In terms of fashion, the pandemic is now in its eighth season. Capasa noted with satisfaction that no outbreak has ever been attributed to fashion week.
We must learn to live with this virus and maintain a high guard over behaviors, Capasa said. If we have learned anything, it is that you have to think very quickly and adapt to the situation.
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