Dolce&Gabbana preserve the live fashion show during pandemic

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Models wear creations as part of Dolce&Gabbana men's Spring-Summer 2021 collection, presented in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Colleen Barry)

MILAN – An operatic pop trio belted out song from the center of a medical university plaza Wednesday while Dolce&Gabbana’s showed its latest men's collection in tones of summer blues and geometric prints.

Just five months ago, there would have been little remarkable in such a scene.

But the coronavirus pandemic has largely put the kibosh on live fashion shows — with most fashion houses going digital to launch their summer collections for next year in both Milan this week and Paris last.

Also working against the fashion show ritual, cross-border travel has become difficult, if not impossible. Shoulder-to-shoulder seating is definitely out.

With these restrictions, the energy seems to have gone from fashion. Even if events have always been invitation only, even if they were marked by cramped seating and endless waiting for 15 minutes of flash, there was buzz. The live event -- even for those who lived it secondhand -- created its own excitement -- something that has become excessively obvious in its absence.

In recent times, designers have experimented with skipping seasons, or merging men’s and women’s collections, both sure signs of ennui with the fashion drumbeat. But the coronavirus lockdowns and the push to digital platforms have only reinforced the role that the physical runway show plays in the wider system.

‘’The digital can’t substitute the live shows,’’ Carlo Capasa, president of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber said after the Dolce&Gabbana show, which also marked the designers’ resumption of membership in the organizing body. “This live show gave more substance to fashion week.’’

The experience has convinced designers that the next round in September needs to be live as much as possible, he said. ‘’They will be smaller, with fewer people, maintaining distance, but we will try to do shows with all the necessary measures,’’ Capasa said.