Milan kicked off its first Digital Fashion Week on Tuesday with two live runway shows on the schedule, including from heavyweights Dolce & Gabbana, to send out a message of "positivity".
Running through Friday, this "phygital" fashion week -- featuring both physical and digital shows -- will present the Men's Spring/Summer 2021 collections, as well as men's and women's pre-collections, with about 40 brands answering the call.
This is the third such show after London and Paris and Italy's first fashion week since the coronavirus crisis.
Starting off the week was MSGM, with Italian designer Massimo Giorgetti presenting a colourful collection in a video short full of pep, showing young people having fun at a carnival, canoodling by a lake or gazing into each others' eyes, with the motto: "I don't know where, but together".
Also Tuesday, Prada presented a video in five chapters, the work of five different artists including US filmmaker Terence Nance and video artist Martine Syms, featuring a stark, mostly black and white collection. Despite its cinematic format, the final chapter was none other than a filmed runway show.
The clothes are "simple... with a use and a value" because "when times become more complex, the clothes become straightforward, unostentatious," the Italian house said in a statement.
Presentations from Moschino and Philipp Plein were set to follow, while on Wednesday it will be the turn of the Italian firm Etro and D&G, who will both be on the catwalk for real, in-person fashion shows.
"We decided to present the collections with a physical fashion show to give a strong positive message, fundamental at this time for the fashion system and the city of Milan," Kean and Veronica Etro wrote in a statement.
"Real interaction is fundamental to fashion."
Etro will be hold its show at the Four Seasons Hotel located in a converted 15th-century convent, while D&G has chosen the gardens of the university campus of the Humanitas Hospital, which has been involved in coronavirus research and which the fashion brand supports financially.
Last month, Sicilian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana announced their return to the Italian Fashion Chamber (Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana) and to the official calendar for the first time in more than two decades.
Differences with the management of the shows had prompted them to leave the system in 1998.
The chamber's president, Carlo Capasa, called it "a great return".
Capasa, who said the fashion industry anticipates a sales drop of between 20 to 30 percent this year due to coronavirus, said on Tuesday that the shows hoped to "give a message of positivity and energy" to the industry.
"The fact that so many brands participate in our Fashion week... gives a message of hope and trust in our industry," Capasa said.
- Digital versus real -
The week continues with Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod's and Dsquared2 on Thursday and closes Friday with Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna and Missoni.
To accommodate buyers, the chamber will offer live appointments round the clock over various time zones.
In addition to the fashion shows, brand presentations, interviews and backstage sessions, virtual "theme rooms" will cover a wide range of topics such as sustainable development, diversity and technological innovations.
Two other digital events, International Hub Market and Together for Tomorrow, are dedicated to up and coming designers.
It remains to be seen how buyers and the media react to Milan's hybrid fashion week.
The Paris shows that ended Monday were presented in video, with some critics saying the new format fell somewhat flat.
"Digital has a long way to go — light years — before it can replace the live fashion event," wrote fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily (WWD), citing "the genuine, enjoyable intimacy of actually 'being there'" for a one-time-only fashion show.
Barring a new wave of coronavirus, Milan is expected to return, for the most part, to physical fashion shows for its Spring-Summer 2021 Women's collections from September 22 to 28.