SHANGHAI, China — The organising committee behind China’s most prominent fashion event has confirmed that Shanghai Fashion Week — originally slated to kick off on March 26 — will be postponed, as a precautionary measure amid growing concern surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
On February 10, Shanghai Fashion Week posted on its official WeChat account that the postponement was agreed upon with Beijing’s Central Committee, State Council and Shanghai’s municipal government in order to prevent and control the spread of the outbreak, which has infected over 40,000 people worldwide and claimed more than 910 lives, thereby exceeding the death toll of the 2003 SARS pandemic.
The organisation has not said when, or even whether, the event — the country’s most important fashion moment of the year — would be rescheduled.
"We hope that everyone will stay vigilant and pay attention to the government’s advice,” said Shanghai Fashion Week’s Vice Secretary General Lv Xiaolei. “The organisation will focus on keeping up trade, communicating with all parties and find a solution to the situation.”
The country’s other major showcase, China Fashion Week which is held in Beijing and is set to begin on March 25, has also been postponed. An updated schedule has not yet been released.
Though China has officially returned to work following an extended Lunar New Year holiday, residents of cities like Wuhan, Shanghai and Hong Kong have been urged to work from home until March to prevent transmission of the virus. Cases have been confirmed in a number of international locations, including London, New York and Tokyo.
Global fashion companies are already feeling the impact of the coronavirus as shuttered stores and offline factories disrupt both consumption and production in the world’s largest luxury market. Coach, Michael Kors, Canada Goose, Estée Lauder and others are bracing themselves for a steep drop in Chinese sales. On February 7, Burberry said that the virus’ impact was bigger than that of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, with visits to Chinese stores down 80 percent.
But it is small independent brands and events organisers which are arguably the most vulnerable. Designers, unable to showcase their collections to local and global buyers at widely attended runway and trade shows, could see their losses carry through into the next three or four seasons.
Even so, local designers and organisers are taking it in stride. "This is an act of responsibility for the wider community," said At-One-Ment designer Wanbing Huang. "The move was necessary to control the outbreak,” echoes Tube Showroom Founder Zemira Xu. “The extension gives [many factories] a buffer period to prepare for the new season.”
Additional reporting by Queennie Yang and Irina Li
Updated 12:34 GMT on February 17 2019: This story was updated to reflect the postponement of China Fashion Week, which was announced on February 14.