Men’s Runway Shows in State of Flux in Europe, U.S. to Stay Digital

For decades, January has been the month dedicated to men’s fashion in Europe, but the ongoing pandemic has caused some major disruptions again this season. Although the Italians and French are planning to forge ahead, the British have put on the brakes. And the situation in the U.S. — which has historically wrapped up the season — also looks different this time around.

For the first time since its founding in 2012, London Fashion Week Men’s won’t take place in January. Instead, the British Fashion Council has asked men’s designers to take part in the next edition of London Fashion Week, which runs from Feb. 19 to 23. The February edition of LFW will operate as a digital first event with “scaled back” physical activations, and the BFC said it is in “constant communication” with the British government to understand guidelines and restrictions.

Much of the U.K. is effectively in lockdown once again, with nonessential retail shut and citizens encouraged to stay home. With hospitals across the U.K. crammed with virus sufferers and a mutant version of COVID-19 spreading rapidly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a third national lockdown for England, with all schools closed until Feb. 15 at the earliest.

The BFC said back in October that its decision to move the men’s wear showcase to February was made in light of the current environment surrounding COVID-19, uncertainty around the movement of goods, samples and people in the single market and customs union post-Brexit (although the U.K. has since inked a free trade deal with the European Union), and following surveys and roundtables with designers, as well as conversations with sales showrooms regarding selling periods.

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“The BFC is committed to support British men’s wear designer businesses to show and sell their collections and will work with them on finding the best solutions to enable them to share sales materials with international buyers ahead of the February shows. The organization will work on a sales-focused campaign aimed at the industry through January 2021, using the London Fashion Week platform to drive reach to the designers’ online showrooms and physical sales contacts,” the organization said.

Caroline Rush, BFC chief executive officer, said that as the fashion industry “moves toward a more sustainable and responsible future, our aim is to continue to redefine our fashion week model, embracing digital and technological innovation while offering ideas and solutions that will work for all designer businesses.”

She said folding men’s week into London Fashion Week in February “will continue to de-gender LFW, allow designers greater flexibility to consider what collection they show when and minimize travel requirements, taking us one step closer to a more sustainable future.”

The BFC said that, going forward, all of London’s fashion weeks will be open to all genders and seasons. Later this year, there will be a June showcase, running from June 11 to 14 and the September fashion week will take place from Sept. 17 to 21. The possibility of staging a London Fashion Week in January 2022 will be “reviewed” in 2021, the BFC said.

But the Italian men’s fashion industry did not follow the BFC and instead, is going ahead with its plans — with some significant changes.

Florence-based men’s fashion trade show Pitti Uomo, which has historically been held right after London Men’s Fashion Week, will inaugurate the fashion month with the launch of its Pitti Connect digital platform on Jan. 12. The physical edition of the fair, which is still a go as of right now, has been moved to Feb. 21 to 23, right before the kickoff of Milan Women’s Fashion Week. In conjunction with the launch of Pitti Connect on the Jan. 12, Brunello Cucinelli will unveil its fall 2021 collection with virtual appointments livestreamed from the brand’s headquarters in Solomeo, the Medieval hamlet restored by the Italian entrepreneur.

On Jan. 15, Ermenegildo Zegna kicks off Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which will close on Jan. 19, with a physical event. While the majority of brands plan to opt for digital presentations, including Prada, MSGM and Tod’s, others including Fendi, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana and outerwear label K-way will proceed with live shows. Fendi and K-Way will host their runway shows behind closed doors, while Etro and Dolce & Gabbana have not yet decided if they will host seated guests.

According to the Italian fashion chamber, 37 brands will unveil their collections, including debut events by Dima Leu, winner of Who’s Next 2020, Vaderetro, Dalpaos, Dhruv Kapoor and Tokyo James. All digital events, as well as a showroom section, will be available at Camera Nazionale della Moda’s digital platform. CNMI will also host a collaboration with Milan Fashion Film Festival for the first time, launching Jan. 13 and continuing through Jan. 19.

The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, meanwhile, has scheduled men’s fashion week in Paris to run from Jan. 19 to 24, featuring a lineup of international designers. The calendar lists all presenting labels together, no matter the format — digital or physical — as the pandemic has pushed most labels to shift to online channels to show their collections. Mixed in with the digital presentations, some labels, including Louis Vuitton and Dior, are expected to host physical shows with small audiences if health conditions allow. Berluti kicks off the week, which will feature international labels including Yohji Yamamoto from Japan, Dries Van Noten from Belgium and Thom Browne from the U.S. Celine will close the week.

Turning to the U.S., New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which had been struggling to survive even before the pandemic, will now be pushed back and will join the women’s shows in mid-February. In prior years, the men’s shows had been held independently in the first week in February. Even last year, only 23 labels showed over three days with only Todd Snyder and N. Hoolywood participating along with a group of small, emerging brands.

According to Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the organization that created the event: “NYFW: Men’s collections will be held during the consolidated New York Fashion Week of Feb. 14 to 17. Due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic, designers will release their collections digitally with Runway360 serving as the centralized digital platform for NYFW. We look forward to continuing to work with the men’s wear industry to explore the best timing for future releases post-pandemic.“

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