France is becoming a risky destination, given the renewed spread of Covid-19 cases in the country since the summer, and the marked rise in the infection rate in recent days. A delicate situation also affecting the Paris Fashion Week dedicated to the Spring/Summer 2021 womenswear collections, scheduled from September 28 to October 6. Many buyers, distributors and other industry professionals have decided to stay away from the French capital.
It is no surprise that the coming fashion season is turning out to be unlike any other. The virus is still rampant, restrictive health-protection measures and limitations to travel are in place, meaning that September isn't going to bring the eagerly awaited return to normality. Fashion weeks are suffering as a result, especially in Paris, which is increasingly looking like an infection-ridden city. Visitors are threatening to shun the French capital, and many events usually held during the Paris Fashion Week have been cancelled or moved elsewhere.
The Valentino catwalk show for example, which will be exceptionally held in Milan on September 27. The Italian luxury label's new CEO, Jacopo Venturini, has explained the decision in a press release: “In the current situation, we must anticipate decisions to protect our main resources, in other words our staff, and to explore new opportunities to enable the brand to remain relevant. This is why we believe it is more appropriate to stage the next show in Italy, in Milan.”
It is an established fact that a number of international buyers won’t be travelling to Paris, especially those from the UK and the USA, who fear having to quarantine once they return home. The same is true for those from Asia and some European countries.
François Delahaye, boss of Parisian luxury hotels Le Meurice and Plaza Athénée, has confirmed this is the case. Luxury giant LVMH, which “usually books 1,250 nights” for the Paris Fashion Week, “cut the number to 250, because they used to invite American and Chinese guests, who won’t be leaving their countries because of the quarantine,” he told the AFP agency.
Luxury labels are paring inter-country travel down to the bone. “Our local staff will be in charge of running the shows. Inviting celebrities and looking after travel arrangements is out of the question,” a source from a major label told FashionNetwork.com.
The majority of Italian distributors will also be giving the Paris Fashion Week a miss, as some of them told industry website MF Fashion last Tuesday. “Our office on the Champs Elysées remains closed. We will stay in Milan to avoid unnecessary risks, and also a likely quarantine, a prospect that has been floated insistently in the last few days,” said the owner of the Studio Zeta showroom, Mauro Callegari, speaking to MF Fashion.
“We won’t travel to Paris because, apart from a few European buyers, no one will go there. And Paris is prohibitively expensive,” said Riccardo Grassi, of the eponymous showroom. “We had everything set up to showcase 15 collections at our Paris offices, but our clients themselves are now telling us they won’t go to Paris, to avoid taking risks,” Daniele Ghiselli told MF Fashion. Other distributors are still waiting before taking a final decision.
A similar stance has been adopted in the UK. This season, the British Fashion Council will not present its customary selection of emerging designers in Paris, as a spokesperson told FashionNetwork.com: “Owing to the ongoing situation, we won’t be organising the London Show Rooms in Paris this season. We are holding talks about switching the concept to a digital format, but this hasn't been fully confirmed yet.”
International showrooms that are still planning to stage sales campaigns during the Paris Fashion Week will do so in a less emphatic way. “We will be open during the Paris Fashion Week, but on a smaller scale, and most meetings with buyers will take place virtually,” said Anthony Flamos, managing director of AMF Showroom, talking to FashionNetwork.com.
“We will be open from September 30 to October 7, operating in a hybrid fashion, with stricter rules for in-person meetings in terms of number of guests, and also offering online appointments,” said Jacob Valdemar, founder of Vald Agency, specialised in Scandinavian designer labels.