Coronavirus Disrupts London Fashion Week Turnout

Jane Werrell
By Jane Werrell
February 14, 2020UK

London Fashion Week kicked off on Friday, but with a lower attendance from Chinese buyers because of the coronavirus.

The first catwalk at London Fashion Week was by London-based designer Yuhan Wang, originally from Weihai, China. Her show went ahead, despite challenges.

“Due to the virus all the handcrafted things which are made in China wasn’t able to arrive and all the factories shut down and the courier’s not working so I had to just cut down the looks,” she said.

Others were affected too, with one designer having to cancel their show because of logistical issues, with their collection not arriving from China.

Organizers say they’ll make extra efforts to ensure their Chinese partners who couldn’t make it still have access to the shows, and say their thoughts are with them.

“The fashion industry is very much one large community. It’s thinking about those partners in those territories that are affected and hoping that they stay safe and well,” said Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council.

Ralph Lauren says it has temporarily closed two-thirds of its 110 stores in China, and expects a $55 million to $70 million dollar decrease in its fourth-quarter sales.

Companies are making backup plans, but the long-term impact on the supply chains remains unknown.

“Many of the designers will be looking at probably production closer to home. That may mean more opportunity for British manufacturers, for European manufacturers,” said Rush, adding it would be a temporary measure.

Meanwhile, organizers have taken precautions for public safety in the central London venue on The Strand, with antibacterial hand sanitizers and deep cleans of the venue every night.

This season’s fashion week includes 346 events across the city including 78 brands, 103 stores, with a focus on sustainable and positive fashion.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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