Somber start to Fashion Week for Chinese label amid virus fears

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A model walks the runway for Mukzin x Harbin fashion show during New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week started on a gloomy note Thursday, with a Chinese designer showcasing its wares to a partially empty room amid fears the coronavirus could force labels from the Asian giant to cancel their catwalks.

"Mukzin might be the only Chinese brand you will see at this New York Fashion Week," said an announcer, before introducing the autumn-winter 2020 collection of designer Kate Han.

The compere referred to the deadly virus that has killed more than 560 people and sparked global alarm as it spreads around the world as "a disaster and a sad, sad story."

"We're not here only to present the great pieces of the design but also we're showing Chinese people and the people around the world we have strong will and strength and love through all difficulties and hardship," she added.

There were rows of empty seats, a rarity for New York Fashion Week, at the beginning of Han's parade of designs which fuse traditional Chinese influences with a modern twist.

A cloud is hanging over the involvement of Chinese designers, buyers and journalists this week due to the deadly coronavirus.

Chinese label Sheguang has said its New York show will go also ahead and Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which helps run Fashion Week, says it has no information about possible cancellations.

But Chinese fashion houses Angela Chen, Ricostru and Hui have already canceled runway appearances at Milan Fashion Week later this month because of the virus.

Around 1,000 Chinese buyers, journalists, stylists and other industry staff are also going to miss the event, Italian officials have said.

"I felt very confident and very safe here to make the show," said Han.