From Pitti to Paris, the Omicron variant is throwing the upcoming A/W 2022 menswear shows into flux, which has raised existential questions about its future.
It might be difficult to recall, but just a month ago, things were looking good for men’s Fashion Week – which is still commencing today in Milan. It was supposed to be the first one to resemble normalcy since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a celebration of in-person shows following a difficult two years of stops and starts.
But then came the Omicron variant, which immediately threw everything into disarray and added a layer of anxiety to what was intended to be a kind of celebration. Now, like most large-scale events in the last couple of years, Milan Fashion Week is not going ahead entirely as planned.
As it stands, several designers, including Zenga, Fendi, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana are still, for now, planning to go ahead with live runway shows. However, Giorgio Armani has cancelled his men’s shows (for both his main line and the Emporio Armani label); Jonathan Anderson’s JW Anderson show has now transitioned to a digital version; and Brunello Cucinelli, a longtime presence at the Pitti Uomo menswear trade show, will be absent this year. Nonetheless, the show schedule for Paris Fashion Week was revealed late last week, and it comprises a mix of in-person exhibitions, presentations, and digital events.
The fact that a couple of the mega-labels are reconsidering how they participate in the old system is the most telling evidence that change is afoot. Since the spring of 2020, Gucci now exhibits its collections twice a year, outside of formal fashion week events, in a co-ed format.
It has also experimented with various means of exhibiting in the wake of the pandemic, hosting a film festival and a 12-hour webcast, for example. Bottega Veneta has acted similarly in the past. It might be Balenciaga, though, that is doing the most to defy Fashion Week expectations. Since the pandemic, they have mostly stayed off the runway. Instead, they’ve produced a video game and collaborated with The Simpsons. Perhaps the lesson here is why limit yourself to one or two weeks a year?