Paris Fashion Week Men's will be going ahead audience-free as the capital continues the fight to curb rising levels of Covid-19 infections. The governing body of the French fashion industry, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, has instructed brands to refrain from inviting guests in accordance with the latest laws on public gatherings, although filming is authorized.

In a statement to WWD, the Fédération's executive president Pascal Morand advised “the instructions from the Paris police headquarters stipulate that there should be no public attendance, whether it is for fashion shows or any other event."

Considering that Paris Fashion Week is chiefly an institutionalized PR exercise with influencers LARPing as press and vice versa, a freshly ghosted front row will certainly put a different spin on proceedings for Fall /Winter 2021. What is a fashion week without the perma-recording influencers and street style photographers?

The answer was already emerging six months ago when brands adopted a digital-only fashion week, with various degrees of success, for SS21. The truth became quietly self-evident: brands don't really need guests (or at least not as many) when they can live stream, or even pre-record a fashion show and beam it straight to your device in real-time. The solution to making fashion week succeed during a pandemic appeared to be a simple modernization of an archaic traditionalist system.

However, as we reported last year, going digital and subsequently not packing your FROW with savvy influencers can have a detrimental effect on a brand's social media reach. Reports from June revealed that Prada's struggled to match the extravaganza in Shanghai, suffering a 60 percent decline in earned media value, despite the fact it was Miuccia Prada's final solo show before the arrival of Raf Simons.

However, Bottega Veneta's blanket social media deletion begs the question of whether playing the popularity contest out online is still of interest to big brands at all? Time will tell as the likes of Louis Vuitton, Thom Browne, and Dries Van Noten will show new collections in presumably empty rooms next week. Their ability to resonate with audiences and customers remotely, sans the help of attending VIPs, will be put to the test.

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