Face masks appear at London Fashion Week as coronavirus fears hit numbersby Emma Brazell
London Fashion Week couldn’t escape the impact of the coronavirus crisis as it opened today, with Chinese buyers and media noticeably absent and designers admitting their creations weren’t what they had envisaged due to the epidemic.
Hand sanitisers and face masks were everywhere and overall attendance was expected to be down, as the five-day event kicked off on Friday days after the deadly virus was confirmed to have hit the UK capital city.
The catwalk shows were started by Chinese designer Yuhan Wang, who presented a first solo collection of Victorian-inspired waisted jackets in floral prints and lace-trimmed outfits accompanied by whimsical pearl jewellery.
She admitted that delayed shipments had taken a toll on her clothing, as travel and working restrictions continue.
She said: ‘Due to the virus all the hand-crafted things that were made in China weren’t able to arrive, and all the factories shut down, and the couriers not working, so I had to cut down the looks.’
British Fashion Council Chief Executive Caroline Rush also revealed that one designer was not able to take part in the show at all as their collection had not arrived from the east Asian country ‘due to logistical issues’.
Thousands of people will attend presentations from more than 60 brands including Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger at London Fashion Week, as the coronavirus death toll hits 1,380 with more than 63,000 people infected in China.
The chief executive opened the event by stating that ‘thoughts are with those affected by coronavirus, unable to travel’.
Ms Rush added that the number of attendees this year would be down due to the outbreak and that the shut-down of transport links and factories in China was being felt.
Plans had been made to ensure Chinese media and buyers had access to news and images and organisers had taken precautions by providing anti-bacterial sanitisers and undertaking regular deep-cleaning, she said.
London Fashion Week will ensure that Chinese journalists, buyers and social media influencers can still join in by promoting content and encouraging conversations on Chinese social media platforms Weibo and WeChat as well as other platforms.
Lower Chinese attendance is potentially a major blow for fashion brands since Chinese spending accounted for a third of luxury global market sales in 2018, according to Bain & Company.
However, questions have been raised over the effect that restrictions will take on the fashion industry as a whole if the coronavirus outbreak continues, given that China is the world’s largest producer of textiles.
The crisis has forced the cancellation and postponement of many international business gatherings and sporting events including Shanghai Fashion Week.