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As Paris Fashion Week Opens, the Shoe Industry Is Paralyzed by Coronavirus Shutdown in Italy

As coronavirus continues to rattle the industry from Wall Street to retail to the factory floor, Paris Fashion Week kicked off on Monday with Christian Louboutin’s museum retrospective opening.

Most editors, executives and brands are forging ahead, though many are foregoing the traditional fashion week kisses and avoiding large crowds when possible. There have been some impacts on the Paris schedule. For one thing, six Chinese designers have shelved their shows, and at least one presentation has been canceled so far.

Still, many shoe players are more focused on the situation in Italy, where major buying and production appointments that were due to take place this week have been canceled or rescheduled. As of Tuesday morning, at least 229 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the country, according to CNN. Most are located in northern Italy, in towns not far from Milan. Seven deaths have been reported.

Giorgia Bonini said Massimo Bonini’s Milan showroom remained open as the company continued to monitor the situation, but business had stalled. “The major American department stores canceled their upcoming trips to Milan,” Bonini said, noting that some international buyers were still coming to their appointments and other meetings were being moved to later dates.

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Rachel Comey, who opened a pop-up in Paris for fashion week, was due to meet with her shoe designer on Monday near a factory in Tuscany. Comey changed her schedule and flew to Zurich for the meeting instead.

Most companies based in and around Milan have stipulated that their employees work from home, and several trade shows set for this week have been postponed. Stores in shopping malls will be closed next weekend, with the exception of grocery stores. But residents have scrambled to stock up, and, as a result, many shelves are empty in the city.

Milan Fashion Week was in its final stretch when the coronavirus situation worsened over the weekend. On Saturday night, Giorgio Armani made the decision to hold his show behind closed doors.

Today, the U.K. health secretary said that British residents with flulike symptoms who had returned from Italy north of Pisa should self-isolate for 14 days. Even if they don’t have symptoms, people should heed the same advice if they visited any of the 10 quarantined towns, health secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC. — With contributions by Luisa Zargani and Stephanie Hirschmiller

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