The Fashion Show Will Go On. But How?

On December 31, 2019, health officials documented the planet’s first cluster of novel coronavirus cases. Ten weeks later, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a state of pandemic. In the window between those two dates, the world played host to 4,617 new COVID-19 cases and 280 deaths — and at least four global fashion weeks across the U.S. and Europe.

Here stateside, New York Fashion Week’s Fall 2020 season was decidedly the industry’s last gasp of normalcy. By the time the fashion tour arrived in Paris in late February, the writing was already on the wall: As the New York Times wrote back in March, “The crisis has accelerated a question hanging over fashion in recent years. Runway shows are expensive, laborious and environmentally harmful. Are they still worth absorbing an entire month?”

It’s been six months since, and with 6.3 million cases of the illness recorded in the U.S. alone, it’s clear we’re not yet in a position to answer that question. (Though in all likelihood, the reply will be a resounding and unencumbered no.) But on Sunday, New York Fashion Week begins its Spring 2021 season regardless, with 60 “presentations” listed on the CFDA’s official calendar. (In February, as Vogue noted, that number amounted to 177.) Yet some of New York’s biggest names — like Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Proenza Schouler, Brandon Maxwell and Prabal Gurung — do not appear on the schedule at all; Marc Jacobs opted out of the Spring 2021 season altogether, with his customary time slot now filled by Eckhaus Latta.

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