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How covid-19 killed the buzz of men's fashion

Almost a year after the last covid-free catwalk shows, men's fashion week begins today in Milan without its traditional audience of buyers, bloggers, celebrities and media

Designer Olivier Rousteing presents his Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection show for fashion house Balmain during Men's Fashion Week in Paris, France, January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SEARCH "GLOBAL POY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2020 PACKAGES. (REUTERS)

A year after the last covid-free catwalk shows in Milan, men's fashion week begins today, but without the buzz of its traditional audience of buyers, bloggers, celebrities and media.

As the pandemic continues to upend Italy's crucial luxury sector nearly 12 months after it first swept through the country, fashion houses have turned to technology to showcase their fall/winter 2021-22 collections.

Shows will be broadcast live on the fashion houses' own websites or be replaced with pre-recorded presentations, short films and other artistic projects. Others such as Dolce & Gabbana have withdrawn entirely.

The four-day men's fashion event takes place with infections rising in Italy's Lombardy region with a return a full lockdown possible as early as the weekend.

Lombardy, whose capital is Milan, is one of five in Italy classified "orange" by the government, which means that stores and most schools are closed, while a curfew remains in force at night.

Among those opting for live shows to be broadcast by the fashion houses are Fendi, Etro and Kway.

Most other brands, however, including Ermenegildo Zegna, Tod's, Prada and Church's, have opted for pre-records -- choices that allow for creative freedom but lack the immediacy and drama of live shows.

Dolce & Gabbana, which was originally scheduled to offer a traditional runway show on 16 January, announced on Monday its decision to pull out entirely.

In view of covid-19, it said, "the conditions essential to the realisation of our fashion show are not met".

For the moment, no digital presentation is planned.

The men's fashion industry has suffered a hard blow from the pandemic. In Italy, the sector ended 2020 with revenues down by 18.6 percent, representing some two billion euros ($2.4 billion) in lost sales.

The global nature of the crisis curtailed exports, which had been on the rise but fell by 16.7 percent last year, crushing revenues by 70.8 percent.

One sign of hope, however, is the beginnings of recovery in the key Asian markets, but industry experts do not expect a full return to health in the luxury sector before 2023.

Italy was the epicentre of the first European outbreak in February last year after ovid-19 first emerged late in 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Since then the virus has claimed tens of thousands of lives in Italy, making it one of the two worst-hit countries in Europe alongside Britain.

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