Trade shows, fashion weeks under pressure in September
There is growing uncertainty about the evolution of the renewed Covid-19 surge in Europe in September, and about the measures that will need be adopted to stem the pandemic. In other words, it will be a leap into the unknown for the many fashion shows and events which usually take place after the summer. Some of them have decided to push their dates back by a month, others are sticking to them, often helped by the deployment of digital solutions, while others have thrown in the towel. As a result, there is a great deal of pressure on the next season of events dedicated to the Spring/Summer 2021.
Dolce & Gabbana will be first in the limelight, at the beginning of September, with a couture event in Florence in collaboration with Pitti Immagine. The Italian luxury label will stage two shows, the Alta sartoria menswear show at Palazzo Vecchio on September 2, and the Alta moda womenswear show at Villa Bardini on September 3. Both events will be highly exclusive, open to a limited number of guests, and aren’t expected to create any problem for Dolce & Gabbana in terms of health protection measures. Last July, the label staged a physical show for its menswear collection, and is expected to return shortly to Milan with womenswear.
The situation will not be the same for trade shows, which usually attract large numbers of visitors. The Parisian trade shows scheduled from September 4 to 7 - albeit in streamlined formats - at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, have had to rethink their plans. Who's Next, Impact, Traffic and Riviera have been postponed to October 2-4, and will be held in parallel with Première Classe, already scheduled on those dates at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.
Lingerie show Interfilière has instead opted not to hold a physical edition, and will be staged online via the Interfilière Connect website, launched on August 24 and operational until September 30. The Splash Paris show, dedicated to resortwear, has chosen a similar solution, cancelling its October edition and opting for an online format, from September 7 to October 9.
Another major trade show that will not be taking place is Première Vision, originally planned on September 15-16 at the Paris-Nord Villepinte exhibition centre. The textile sourcing event has had to cancel its physical edition due to the stringent health protection measures imposed by the French government to fight the pandemic. Première Vision Made in France, showcasing the output of French garment producers and finishers, accessories suppliers, and knitwear and fabric manufacturers, will instead go ahead as planned at the Carreau du Temple in Paris on September 1-2.
The French government's ban on major events, those attended by over 5,000 people, in place until October, spelt doom for Première Vision, which shifted suddenly to a digital-only version. The show's virtual edition is scheduled on September 15-16, and will feature, besides exhibitors’ collections, a programme of conferences and presentations, and networking opportunities for producers and buyers.
Italian show organiser Pitti Immagine opted for the same approach, after initially postponing the summer session of its events to early September. Lack of visibility and shrinking exhibitor numbers eventually forced the organiser to abandon the plan, pinning all its hopes on the Pitti Connect website. The latter was launched on July 16, and hosts the virtual editions of Florentine fashion shows Pitti Uomo, Bimbo and Filati. It showcases the collections of some 500 exhibitors, as well as a plethora of extra content and special events.
Half-way through the season, Pitti Connect’s results are regarded as positive. “We’re extremely satisfied. We still have one month ahead of us, and so far we have racked up 70,000 visitors, who viewed nearly 700,000 pages in over 150,000 site visits,” said Agostino Poletto, general manager of Pitti Immagine, talking to FashionNetwork.com.
“What's most interesting is that the length of time spent by buyers on Pitti Connect has doubled compared to the previous version of our virtual show, e-Pitti. Average browsing time has increased from one to two and a half minutes, while the number of page views has risen by 30%,” added Poletto, underlining how the emphasis on browsing length and the multiplicity of content available is what distinguishes Pitti Connect from other sites.
In other countries too, health considerations continue to cause problems to event organisers. Denim supply chain show Kingpins China City Tour, scheduled across various Chinese cities on September 2-4, has for example been cancelled, again due to the pandemic and related travel restrictions.
“While several areas around the world have begun to reopen, and a good number of our factories and partners in China are slowly returning to a normal state of affairs, for many of our international visitors travelling isn’t an option right now,” said Vivian Wang, the show's general manager.
In Germany, the International Leather Goods Fair, scheduled in Offenbach am Main, near Frankfurt, on September 5-7, has also been called off due to the renewed rise of Covid-19 cases in the region. Footwear show Gallery Shoes, planned in Düsseldorf from August 30 to September 1, has instead confirmed its dates.
In Switzerland, Geneva hosted until August 29 the Geneva Watch Days show, a new watch industry event, the first to be held since the cancellation of Baselworld and Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) in spring. Held in Geneva’s city centre, Watch Days is the brainchild of Bulgari’s CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, a compact event with only 17 exhibitors. Its streamlined format and relaxed atmosphere were a far cry from the habitual large-scale industry events.
In Italy, the majority of Milan’s September trade shows will go ahead as planned. Italy's textile and fashion industry organisations wish to broadcast a strong message for the autumn, and have gone to great lengths to stage an intense programme of events, under a common banner, #StrongerTogether. Milano Unica will open the season at the Rho-Pero exhibition centre on the outskirts of Milan, on September 8-9, hosting nearly 200 exhibitors, less than half its usual number.
Milano Unica, Italy's leading trade event for high-end textiles and fashion accessories, might well benefit from Première Vision’s cancellation. Like its French homologue, the event has deployed a robust digital counterpart, e-MilanoUnica Connect, created with the help of Pitti Immagine’s tech know-how. Milano Unica’s virtual show will only be active after the end of the physical event, from September 10, and will be operational until the next session, in February 2021.
On September 19-22, the Fiera Milano pavilions will host the Homi Fashion & Jewels show. In its wake, on September 20-23, they will be home to benchmark footwear show Micam, which from September 15 to November 15 will also stage a virtual version, the Micam Milano Digital Show, on a website developed and run by the NuOrder agency.
For the first time, TheOneMilano, the show dedicated to fabric, leather and fur ready-to-wear collections, will be an integral part of Micam as a ‘Special Featured by Micam’ [sic] event, presenting total looks for footwear brands. On September 22-23, the Mipel leather goods show will be staged at Fiera Milano, while avant-garde fashion show White Milano is scheduled in the southern part of the city on September 24-27, in parallel with the Milan Fashion Week.
To add an extra boost to this chaotic post-vacation period, the organisers of White Milano have launched the ‘Milano loves Italy’ project, designed to bring together and synergise the efforts of the leading players within Italy's fashion system, from showrooms to trade shows to the Milan Fashion Week, as well as local authorities.
After months of virtual events, fashion industry professionals are keen to get together and to view real live products. A sentiment that is palpable in Milan, where the President of the Italian Fashion Chamber (CNMI), Carlo Capasa, has confirmed the Milan Fashion Week will go ahead on September 22-28 in a phygital format, featuring 28 live catwalk shows.
Leading labels like Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Max Mara and Etro have heeded the call (Gucci will instead give the event a miss), joined, among others, by Tod’s, Boss, Marni, N°21, Calcaterra and Sunnei. The programme will be completed by a great deal of digital content, comprising 24 films, among them those by Missoni, Philipp Plein, Dsquared2, Marco De Vincenzo and GCDS.
However, the same optimistic mood isn’t currently felt in every leading fashion capital. Inter-country transportation links are still curtailed in some regions, and countries like the UK and Germany have recently introduced quarantine measures, so that business travel, for buyers and the press, is necessarily much reduced. Not to mention social distancing requirements, which are forcing labels to drastically reduce the number of guests at their shows.
The New York Fashion Week, scheduled on September 13-16 with a closing show by Tom Ford, will be mostly held online, the event's new Runway360 website hosting some 60 names. A small number of catwalk shows will take place live, like Jason Wu’s at the fashion week’s opening, but will have to comply with the strict health protection measures still in place in the pandemic-stricken state of New York.
The London Fashion Week too will be held in a reduced phygital format, on September 17-22. It will feature 25 physical shows and presentations, the majority of them streamed live online too, among them Burberry, Simone Rocha, Bethany Williams, Erdem, Pronounce and Victoria Beckham, and some 40 virtual presentations broadcast on the London Fashion Week’s website, including those by Art School, Bianca Saunders, Marques'Almeida and Richard Quinn.
Instead, with the exception of Koché, which has announced a show at the Buttes-Chaumont park, little is currently known about the Paris Fashion Week, scheduled from September 28 to October 6. The only information dates back to the French Haute Couture and Fashion Federation’s June announcement, indicating that it will comply with the official guidelines regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the event will be integrated by the Paris Fashion Week’s online tools. Most major labels however are extremely keen to return to catwalk shows.
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