Written by Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Paris Fashion Week will go ahead this fall, the event’s organizers have confirmed, with shows starting September 28.

The announcement by Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode makes Paris the first of Europe’s fashion centers to confirm its Spring-Summer shows.

As many countries relax their lockdowns and social distancing regulations, brands and organizers are grappling with the question of whether — and how — they should allow physical fashion shows in a world still struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Major brands normally follow a hectic schedule of separate men’s and women’s runway events at Autumn-Winter and Spring-Summer fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris, and often stage additional one-off „cruise“ and pre-Autumn shows.

But, for a time, the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on this hectic jet-setting schedule and cast a new light on existing concerns about the environmental and economic sustainability of such shows and the cycles of consumption they encourage.

In May, Gucci’s creative designer, Alessandro Michele, announced the brand would permanently abandon the traditional fashion calendar as the industry rethinks how it operates in the light of Covid-19.
A model walks the runway during the Christian Dior Womenswear Spring-Summer 2020 show at Paris Fashion Week in September 2019.

A model walks the runway during the Christian Dior Womenswear Spring-Summer 2020 show at Paris Fashion Week in September 2019. Credit: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Saint Laurent expressed a similar sentiment, saying in April that it would not be presenting its collections to the „pre-set schedules of 2020.“

Some brands have embraced the digital experience: Burberry will be hosting its London Spring collection as an outdoor show that can be accessed digitally; and on Monday, Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director at Dior, told a conference call that it will stage a live show with no audience on July 22, in Lecce in Italy’s Puglia region, Vogue reported.

Pietro Beccari, the brand’s CEO, who was also on the call, indicated that the Autumn 2020 couture show, scheduled for July 6, won’t be live, but that Dior hoped for „some“ audience for its Spring 2021 show in Paris in September, according to Vogue.

 A model walks the runway during the Saint Laurent Womenswear Spring-Summer 2020 at Paris Fashion Week last September.

A model walks the runway during the Saint Laurent Womenswear Spring-Summer 2020 at Paris Fashion Week last September. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Still, some brands seem to be pressing ahead. In a recent interview with industry trade title Business of Fashion, Chanel’s Bruno Pavlovsky reiterated his commitment to participating in Paris Fashion Week.

Event organizers in the UK are also making plans. A spokesman for London Fashion Week told CNN that the event would be going ahead in September and that it was expected to be a „hybrid“ of digital and physical, depending on whether designers prefer to host runway shows or presentations.

„We are currently in conversation with the designers to understand what their plans are. An official announcement will be made early July to confirm the exact format,“ he said.

Imran Amed, CEO and founder of Business of Fashion, told CNN that even though there was uncertainty about whether live shows could take place, the easing of lockdowns in European countries and the sheer feat of organization required to put on fashion week events mean that some organizers are planning for the Autumn shows, without being certain they will go ahead.

Both organizers and brands are facing imminent deadlines. „If you’re going to hold a physical event a few months from now, you have to give people some clarity around dates and timing and whatnot, in order that people can plan,“ he said.

Amed told CNN that, based on his conversations with industry leaders, it seemed as though brands were „planning, while also being very aware that those plans might not be possible, given some of the uncertainty around a second wave and other restrictions.“

„A lot of the events that are being planned may have to replicate what we’re seeing in Paris and Milan in July — events that are taking place physically, but without an audience,“ he added.

Amed told CNN that, come September, fashion weeks could also see an absence of smaller brands, as they might lack the budget to stage shows, having had their revenue slashed by Covid.

„Whatever fashion week does happen, it’s going to feel very different because a lot of the smaller brands will likely not be a part of it,“ he said.