Prada is one of many presenting virtual fashion shows this season in Milan, as coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout Europe. (AFP/Joel Saget)
Never before had Miuccia Prada seen so many people at one of her fashion shows.
Of course, they were all watching from their computers.
"Now we are with so many more people, and that's new, at least for me," said Prada on Thursday, following her digital show on the second day of Milan Fashion Week.
The top Italian fashion brand, known for its subdued, darkly hued garments, shoes and handbags, is one of many presenting virtual fashion shows this season in Milan, as coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout Europe.
The spring/summer 2021 collection was the debut Prada show for Raf Simons, the Belgian designer tapped as Prada's co-creative director in February.
"It's a strange situation, it's my first show with Raf Simons and instead of being here with our friends in the industry, all our community, we are alone," Prada said in filmed comments, with Simons seated at her side.
"But in fact what is really exciting is we're not alone at all," she said.
The industry, which has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic, is betting big on digital to rethink fashion as the virus continues to weigh on sales.
The luxury houses showing at Milan are embracing the digital format like never before: shows are presented on TikTok, Instagram TV, YouTube or on dedicated mini-sites, like the one created by the house of Armani to present the new collection of its Emporio line.
"During the lockdown we realized, mainly I realized, how important technology is and how it's impactful for us," Prada said, adding that with the film format "we hope you can enjoy and see the clothes better."
Sector in crisis
Fashion Week is a key moment for business.
"Fashion is the second-largest industrial sector in Italy and the peninsula produces 41 percent of the European Union's fashion turnover," said the president of the Fashion Chamber, Carlo Capasa, during the presentation of Fashion Week.
But the Italian market lost a third of its sales in the first half of the year.
Despite clear signs of recovery in China, a top market for luxury goods, uncertainty persists due to a second wave of the virus and the tightening of containment measures in many countries, which are slowing orders from retailers with a domino effect on the entire sector.
With the bulk of international buyers unable to attend the shows due to travel restrictions, the brands have adapted: in the showroom, mannequins sport the new looks and personalized virtual appointments are offered.
"Digital does not replace the emotion of the physical show, but it is thanks to digital that the sector is maintaining itself," said Capasa.
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