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Masked fashionistas and distant models, D&G launches the COVID-era catwalk

MILAN, July 14 (Reuters) - No air-kissing, a safely-distanced front row and face masks are de rigueur - Dolce & Gabbana is rewriting the rules of high-end fashion engagement with one of the first physical shows of the COVID-19 era.

Part of Milan’s otherwise digital menswear fashion week, the show on Wednesday will be watched by a select group of guests wearing face masks as the models stride down the catwalk a cool metre apart.

It is being held on the university campus of the Humanitas research foundation, which is trying to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus - a project funded by Dolce & Gabbana.

“We want to give a positive message, a message of rebirth - it’s possible to start again, respecting safety measures,” said Giulia Piacentini, a spokeswoman for the brand.

Together with another Italian brand, Etro, which is also holding a physical show with guests on Wednesday, Dolce & Gabbana’s will be the first real-world fashion event by a major luxury label since the easing of lockdown restrictions in much of Europe.

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced luxury houses to shut shops and idle manufacturing sites, brands cancelled events or opted for audience-free, digital-only formats, such as the Paris Haute Couture showcase earlier this month.

The French fashion world aims to return to physical shows in September.

Wednesday’s Dolce & Gabbana spring/summer 2021 menswear show in Rozzano, south of Milan, will be attended by around 200 Italian and foreign guests including buyers, customers and media.

Staff, models and guests have all received safety instructions and must respect social distancing rules. Masks will be compulsory backstage and for the audience, although Dolce & Gabbana have not disclosed whether the models will be wearing potentially trend-setting masks on the catwalk.

Piacentini said the show was aimed at supporting Humanitas’ COVID-19 research. The show’s sponsors have donated money to the project and guests will also be encouraged to contribute. (Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Carmel Crimmins and Barbara Lewis)

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