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Omicron Variant Throws Wrench in Men’s Calendar as Cancellations Roll In

It may be a new year, but we still can’t get rid of COVID as it effects travel, retail and major events.

After a successful return to in-person fashion and trade shows in the second half of 2021, COVID is not done disrupting the industry’s return to “normal,” as major fashion events have started to announce cancellations, delays, and enhanced safety measures.

For the fashion world, men’s market is the first slate of happenings to take place this month. Speculation from the last two months was “cautiously optimistic.” Most thought business was going to go on as usual. But Omicron persists as market approaches and London Fashion Week’s menswear presentations, typically scheduled right after New Year’s Day, were the first casualty. Instead, the men’s collections will be merged with the planned women’s collections in February.

Moving to Italy, a spokesperson for men’s trade fair Pitti Uomo confirmed to FN that the event will move forward with its scheduled in-person show, slated for Jan. 11 to 13 in Florence. But despite the organizer’s plans, guest designer brand Ann Demeulemeester has postponed its special event at Pitti to the show’s June edition due to coronavirus concerns. At the same time, Brunello Cucinelli, a major exhibitor for Pitti Uomo, announced this week that it will not participate in-person this season as originally intended. Alternatively, the Italian luxury brand plans to showcase its fall 2022 collection on the trade show’s digital platform Pitti Connect and host individual appointments at its Milan showroom.

Milan Men's Fashion Week January 2022
CREDIT: Courtesy of CNMI

In Milan, legendary designer Giorgio Armani made headlines this week as he opted to cancel both the Emporio Armani and Giorgio Armani men’s fall 2022 shows, which had been slated to take place in Milan on Jan. 15 and 17, respectively. Armani has also opted to cancel his Privé haute couture spring 2022 show planned for later this month in Paris. Haute Couture is slated to run Jan. 24 to 27 in the French capital.

“This decision was made with great regret and following careful reflection in light of the worsening epidemiological situation,” according to a statement from the Milan-based fashion house. There are no plans for a digital version of the shows.

Carlo Capasa, chairman of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), which hosts Milan Men’s Fashion Week, said in a statement that “we deeply understand the decision by Mr. Armani to cancel his fashion show, which is an option that is consistent with his approach to the pandemic and to his vision.” He went on to state that it is possible that in the coming days there may be more changes to the calendar due to the “complex health situation that Italy is in.”

At the time of press, Milan Men’s Fashion Week is expected to run Jan. 14 to 18 with a mix of digital and in-person shows. As of Dec. 31, 2021, CNMI’s requirements to attend official events on the calendar include providing a Super Green Pass and use of FFP2 masks for all participants. Guest seats will be at least 1 meter apart and at least 4 square meters must be maintained between guest at events without seating. Also, no food or beverage service will be allowed at events and proper ventilation must be available, the CNMI said.

In Paris, no major cancellations have been announced at the time of press for the city’s men’s fashion week, slated to run Jan. 18 to 27. But a multitude of health and safety protocols are being implemented by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) which organizes the week. According to a spokesperson for FHCM, maximum capacities at events cannot exceed 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 outdoors. Spectators must also be seated and a physical distancing of at least one meter between two people. Masks are mandatory in Paris in public spaces and in all places open to the public as of Dec. 31, 2021. Additionally, only vaccinated people will be able to access these venues and events. A negative COVID test will no longer be sufficient.

Project Trade Show
Project New York trade show at the Javits Center
CREDIT: Courtesy of UBM

Here in the States, menswear tradeshow Project was scheduled to make its New York City comeback later this month after a year on pause. However, its owner, Informa Fashion Markets, confirmed to FN yesterday that it will scrap the New York edition this season, opting to relaunch the event in Manhattan in July. However, Informa did state that its Project Las Vegas event is still expected to go on as planned from Feb. 14 to 16 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Project’s rival, Liberty Fairs, announced in December that it has placed its show on pause for the winter season as the team takes the time to re-evaluate how it operates and implements new initiatives. “While it has always been our mission to showcase the rising talent and innovations within the men’s and women’s fashion industry through highly impactful trade shows and events, we feel there is no better time than now to hit the pause button and restructure our business model to better suit the forward-thinking and heritage brands we serve,” the company said in a statement last month.

As for New York Fashion Week (NYFW), the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) said on Wednesday that it “understands the impact of the Omicron variant on logistics, staffing and planning leading up to the week and will support each brand’s individual decision as it relates to their February shows.”

The CFDA noted that its digital platform Runway360 will continue to be its central virtual home for NYFW, but will “continue to navigate the fluid nature of the pandemic,” and will update its guidance if the situation in the city changes in the coming weeks.

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