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FASHION

How coronavirus fears have hit the Italian fashion market

As designers stay away from Milan Fashion Week and production workshops in China shut down, the coronavirus outbreak is expected to cost the Italian fashion industry at least €100 million over three months.

How coronavirus fears have hit the Italian fashion market
Milan Fashion Week events have had "significantly reduced" attendance this year, organisers said. Photo: AFP

Milan Fashion Week kicked off on Tuesday overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak, with thousands of Chinese designers, buyers and journalists ditching the event.

China accounts for over a third of global luxury consumption and the crisis has already cost Italy's fashion sector millions of euros.

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The closure of production workshops of Chinese brands in China has also made it impossible to meet the production deadlines for the shows.

But the show must go on, and for five days, Italy's biggest fashion names such as Armani, Fendi, Prada, Versace and Gucci will showcase their Autumn-Winter 2020 Women's collections.

Models on the catwalk on Tuesday for the “China, We are With You” event at Milan Fashion Week 2020. Photo: AFP

The event began Tuesday evening with a “China, We are With You” fashion show from Chinese designer, Han Wen, who is based in New York.

However, the three Chinese designers with fashion shows scheduled – Angel Chen, Ricostru and Hui – have pulled out.

Authorities are preparing for all eventualities in Italy, where three cases of the new coronavirus have been detected so far.

Italy was the first European country to ban all flights to and from China last month after declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak

The virus, which has already killed nearly 1,900 people around the world, mostly in China, also cast a pall over London's Fashion Week.

That show, which began on Friday and lasted five days, was also marked by “significantly reduced” attendance, organisers said.

The National Chamber for Italian Fashion said the economic impact of the epidemic was “currently not calculable.”

Using the 2003-2004 SARS outbreak as a guide, it said an “optimistic” estimate would be for Italian exports to decline by a minimum of 100 million euros ($108 million) in the first quarter of 2020 and 230 million “in the event of a prolonged crisis” for the first half of the year.

New York-based Chinese designer Han Wen at Milan Fashion Week 2020. Photo: AFP

The Chinese absence will be noticeable not just around the catwalks but behind the scenes, in showrooms where international buyers come to order pieces that will end up a few months later in luxury boutiques around the world.

To make up for the gap, the chamber has launched an assortment of digital means to connect buyers in China by giving them access to the catwalks in streaming but also behind the scenes.

The COVID-19 outbreak – as the World Health Organization has formally named it – has also hit the sector's supply chain, with textile manufacturing plants shutting down in China, causing significant delays in the delivery of collections.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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