‘We shouldn’t be here,’ was the refrain in February, when editors and buyers from major retailers around the globe gathered for Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks. At the time, Italy had the highest number of Coronavirus cases in Europe: 152, a number that seems unthinkingly small now. Schools and government headquarters had just closed as a ‘precautionary measure’. While news of an outbreak in China cast an ominous cloud over proceedings in Milan, the spectacle of fashion week – a lavish showcase of the world’s most valuable brands, with supermodels, celebrities, and press gathered under one roof – continued. COVID-19 was yet to be officially declared a pandemic, after all. Yet ‘the show must go on’ quickly went from a defiant rallying cry to a question amid uncertainty about the scale of the virus’s impact. While Dolce & Gabbana proceeded with its 121-look show, Giorgio Armani uninvited guests on the same day, instead live-streaming its AW20 show ‘to safeguard the wellbeing’ of those originally invited. Then came Paris Fashion Week, and a rush of dropouts. US-based buyers and press rapidly canceled hotels and rebooked flights – their eyes on Skyscanner in the front rows, rather than next season’s hit shoe styles (Mary-Jane platforms, in case you were wondering). Some brands reported 20-30% of guests reneged on their RSVPs. Air kissing – the quintessentially French greeting – was a faux pas, replaced with a polite, albeit anxious, nod. Read more at Elle.