How Coronavirus Is Impacting Paris Fashion Week: Some Events Are Canceled + Hand Sanitizer Is Trending

As global financial markets plummet and sales losses continue to mount for major brands and retailers, Paris Fashion Week goes on. But all is not definitely normal in the City of Light.

When FN visited one showroom this morning, a sign made it clear that shaking hands is off the table this week. The traditional two-cheek kissing? Many people are avoiding that too. Hesitant arm touches have become the norm for many show-goers who are trying to maintain some sense of politeness.

One thing everyone seems to be on board with? Hand sanitizer, and lots of it.

As for those controversial face masks — health officials have said they actually aren’t effective — some labels, such as Dries Van Noten, are handing them out at shows anyway. It’s one way to reassure the fashion crowd as they’re forced to sit together in packed spaces. (Plus, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bella Hadid have sported face masks on international flights this week, so it’s somewhat of a trend.)

While most major runway shows are taking place as planned, French label Agnes B. today canceled its March 2 show. LVMH called off its buzzed-about emerging designers party, while designer Rosie Assoulin decided not to hold her presentation, moving it to New York in mid-March.

Designer Pierre Hardy said he was forging ahead, but he lamented that the coronavirus makes a difficult climate even more challenging. Some buyers had canceled appointments but the designer was still seeing many customers — and holding his press presentation as normal on Friday.

Paris Fashion Week coronavirus
Passersby outside the Ann Demeulemeester at Paris Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Aurora Rose/Shutterstock

But not everyone has been able to get to Paris as planned. Carlotta de Luca, the Italian designer behind new brand Maria Luca, was due to fly in from Venice on Friday, but her flight got canceled and she decided not to rebook amid new travel restrictions in the area.

At emerging brand Wandler, the internal team said external PR reps from DLX New York canceled their trips to Paris and several other U.S. fashion players have elected not to come as well.

In the past few days, major publishing companies, including Hearst, Dow Jones (owner of The Wall Street Journal) and Penske Media (FN’s parent company) have sent out memos telling editors in Europe — particularly those who traveled to Milan — to work from home for 14 days upon their return to the U.S.

Italy has been crippled by the coronavirus this week — the country has now reported 650 cases of coronavirus and 17 deaths, mostly in northern Italy. (Meanwhile, a 38-year-old Greek designer who attended Milan Fashion Week was diagnosed after she returned home last Sunday.)

According to a survey conducted by Italian luxury brand committee Altagamma — along with consulting firm BCG and asset management firm Bernstein — the luxury market could suffer a sales decline of between 30 billion and 40 billion euros (or $32.5 to $43 billion at current exchange) in 2020 as a result of the outbreak.

Companies from Kering to Burberry to Jimmy Choo parent Capri Holdings have all sent out warnings to investors about financial losses due to the outbreak.

Access exclusive content