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Is it time for fashion month to move beyond the catwalk?

As the curtain falls on this season's anxiety-fuelled shows, coronavirus fears and sustainability concerns left many asking if there is a better way forward, writes Meadhbh McGrath

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Models including Gigi Hadid (centre) at the Chanel show yesterday in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Models including Gigi Hadid (centre) at the Chanel show yesterday in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Models including Gigi Hadid (centre) at the Chanel show yesterday in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Models including Gigi Hadid (centre) at the Chanel show yesterday in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

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Models including Gigi Hadid (centre) at the Chanel show yesterday in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

When fashion month kicked off in New York in February, critics cried that the city was facing an existential crisis. Tom Ford, chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, elected to stage his show in Los Angeles, to coincide with the Oscars date being moved forward this year. Tommy Hilfiger upped sticks to London, while Ralph Lauren decided to show his collection in April, and Jeremy Scott postponed his to July. Some of New York's most exciting young brands, such as Pyer Moss and Telfar, were missing from the schedule too.

By the close of fashion month yesterday, another crisis had gripped the capitals: the threat of coronavirus. In London, Chinese press and buyers were noticeably absent from the front rows, particularly at Burberry, where consumers in the Asia-Pacific region account for 40pc of revenues. In Milan, Giorgio Armani cancelled his show and instead live-streamed a collection presented in an empty auditorium. By the final day of Paris fashion week, many international attendees had returned home early, while many of those that remained wore face masks - one notable example was customised with Mademoiselle Chanel's favourite flower, the camellia. The Washington Post's fashion critic Robin Givhan described the mood in the city as "practically dystopian".

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A guest wears a protective mask at the Y/Project in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

A guest wears a protective mask at the Y/Project in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

A guest wears a protective mask at the Y/Project in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Outside of concerns for public health, it raised questions about the efficacy of flying hordes of journalists, models and buyers from all over the world to take in a bloated, self-important fashion parade, not to mention its toll on the environment. Is it time to start planning a future beyond the catwalk?