Armani was one of the first brands to cancel its January fashion shows, including its Armani Privé show at Haute Couture in Paris and the fall 2022 menswear shows of Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani at Milan Men’s Fashion Week. But it was not the last.
In the last week, several major companies have canceled high-profile fashion shows that were planned for the month of January, including Project with its New York trade show and Brunello Cucinelli with its shows at Pitti Uomo and Milan Men’s Fashion Week. London Men’s Fashion Week, which usually takes place in January, is canceled altogether. More cancelations are rumored to be coming, all thanks to the uncertainty created by the spread of the Omicron variant.
On Tuesday, designer Brunello Cucinelli told WWD that the surge “pushed the fashion house to a difficult decision,” but one that he viewed as necessary. Similar sentiments were expressed by Armani in a press statement, saying that “shows are crucial” but the safety of employees and the public must take priority.
The Project trade show originally scheduled for January 26 is also canceled, as is the Ann Demeulemeester event originally planned for Pitti Uomo set for January 11-14.
In Paris, rumors have swirled that brands will cancel their Paris Men’s Fashion Week shows set to begin on January 24. Joseph Keefer, a fashion brand consultant and creative director of an eponymous fashion brand, said on Twitter that he is canceling his showroom space at Paris Men’s Fashion Week and that he’s heard big-name brands will be sitting out as well. Keefer did not respond to a request for comment.
Looks like Paris is done an dusted for any North American brands, retailers, reps. Word the last two days is the heavy hitters are all holding off on going. We’re in the process of canceling our showroom space now
— Joseph Keefer (@josephkeefer) January 4, 2022
Many of these brands canceling shows are simply rescheduling them for later. London Fashion Week’s men’s shows will be merged with its women’s week starting on February 18, and Ann Demeulemeester’s show will be rescheduled for June, according to the brand.
Shows planned for later in February have yet to be canceled. According to Patricia Bonaldi, founder and creative director of Brazilian luxury brand PatBo, her brand’s New York Fashion Week show is still a go. NYFW is set to begin on February 10.
For brands that aren’t rescheduling, virtual shows now have two years of trial-and-error behind them and can be a viable replacement. While virtual shows can be limiting, Bonaldi said they can also be useful in building hype for a collection. And the rise of the metaverse as a concept has made those shows more accessible. In March, metaverse Decentraland will host a fashion show. No specific brands participating have been named, but a press release for the event promises luxury brands. What’s more, one of the companies organizing the event, UNXD, has previously worked with brands like Dolce & Gabanna. Cucinelli, meanwhile, plans to host a show on Pitti Uomo’s digital companion Pitti Connect.
“While nothing can replace the in-person experience, I have found value in showing digitally,” Bonaldi said. “PatBo actually started out showing virtually, which allowed us to reach a wider audience, and it challenged us to produce content that would bring the collections to life on a screen.”
Amy Smilovic, creative director of Tibi, said her plans for an in-person NYFW event are still happening, but with an interesting twist. The brand is filming its runway show ahead of time and will incorporate the footage into elements of an in-person showcase or party. The exact details are still under wraps.
“We came up with this back in November,” Smillovic said. “So this was before Omicron. We just felt like the traditional runway setup wasn’t working for us.”
But Smilovic is wary of some of the more avant-garde digital show concepts out there, like showing in the metaverse or using elaborate virtual reality platforms.
“Right now, a lot of the other options don’t really interest us,” she said. “Some brands have really made it work, like Collina Strada or Celine, but some things just feel conceptual for conceptual’s sake. We want to balance the conceptual with the old-school.”