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Armani holds fashion show in empty venue due to coronavirus fear

Models walk the runway during the Emporio Armani fashion show as part of Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2020-2021 on February 21, 2020 in Milan, Italy.
Models walk the runway during the Emporio Armani fashion show as part of Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2020-2021 on February 21, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Getty

In a last-minute change, Giorgio Armani held his Milan Fashion Week runway show behind closed doors Sunday due to concerns raised by the coronavirus, and instead streamed the event from inside the empty showroom.

The fashion house said in a statement early Sunday that “the decision was taken to safeguard the well-being of all his invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces.”

In streaming, Armani models moved across a dark background, giving contrast to pink, teal and pearl grey silky printed trousers and skirts, while black velvet jackets blended in with the darkness.

The show ended with what notes said was a “message of love for China,” where the coronavirus first broke out.

READ MORE: Italy tries to contain coronavirus outbreak as neighbours fear its spread

Models in glistening, sculpted gowns from archival couture Armani Privé collections inspired by China stopped along the runway, while 85-year-old Armani took a bow to the virtual audience. Empty seats were visible behind him.

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A dozen towns in northern Italy have gone on effective lockdown after the deaths of two people infected with the new virus from China. Milan is the capital of Italy’s Lombardy region, which reported 54 confirmed cases.

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Milan’s mayor on Saturday shuttered public offices. But runway shows continued apace for their fourth day, with most of the fashion crowd taking an analytical attitude to the rapidly spiking infections.

“For the moment the situation is under control,” said the president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber, Carlo Capasa. He added it was up to government officials or fashion houses themselves to decide if additional measures were needed. Only Armani made changes.

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Sunday is the fifth day of womenswear previews for next fall and winter, with eight other shows scheduled, including Dolce & Gabbana.

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Conde Naste artistic director Anna Wintour took her usual spot in the front-row of Dolce & Gabbana across from a gaggle of global social media Tik-Tok influencers, none of whom were deterred by the spreading virus that had put about a dozen northern Italian towns on lockdown.

Several shows are also scheduled Monday morning, before the fashion world moves on to Paris, where shows start Monday afternoon.

Armani was forced to show behind closed doors one other time, in Paris in 1998, when officials said there were insufficient safety exits inside a huge tent being used as the venue to allow the public to attend.

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Only his team and one video camera were present, and a video of the show was later distributed to fashion editors. Armani later showed the entire collection in New York in protest, claiming that fashion world politics and not just safety concerns had led to the officials’ call.

On Saturday, MIDO, the world’s largest eyewear industry fair, announced that it would postpone the gathering scheduled for Feb. 29 to March 2 until June due to concerns over the virus.

“The evolution of this health crisis underway in our country does not leave any doubt over our decision,″ MIDO president Giovanni Vitaloni said in a statement.

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