Earlier this week I received a WhatsApp message from an unusually glamorous sender – especially for a Monday morning. It was a voice recording from Alessandro Michele (pictured), the fêted artistic director of Gucci, providing me (and no doubt the hundreds of other attendees it was sent to) with information about the brand’s forthcoming runway show. It’s certainly a novel approach by a house famed for its playful take on luxury – and offers an innovative, eco-friendly alternative to the ubiquitous paper invitations.
It also brings a certain lightness to the opening day of what will be a tense Milan Fashion Week (the Gucci show takes place this afternoon). The recently completed fashion weeks in London and New York were noticeably muted due to the absence of Chinese and South Korean visitors. And in Milan, where the schedule is particularly packed with luxury heavyweights who have invested in expensive shows, brands are anxious about whether the whole thing will be worth it. The Chinese market represents a third of luxury spending worldwide and as much as 40 per cent of the customer base for some of the big Italian brands, yet it’s estimated that 1,000 Chinese press and buyers have cancelled their European trips. But what’s a brand to do? Drop the show and miss the press and social-media buzz for the season? The show must go on, it seems – but it’s a costly one to run.