I hope you’re having a healthy, happy week, and that all is well in your world. In Our World, we seem to be facing something of a (very) serious health crisis at the moment. It’s a very unusual occurrence.
The blog I am writing to you today is very different than the one that I was planning to write. It was recently Fashion Week in New York, followed by Fashion Week in London, then Milan, ending with the grand finale: Fashion Week in Paris. Each city is important in the world of fashion, each of the cities has its own flavor, mood, and tempo, and in each of the four cities, the designers of that country show their collections, for the following season. It happens twice a year, in September into October, and then February into March, to show their spring/summer and fall/ winter clothes. Each designer puts on a fashion show, which is a major event and costs a fortune. Some put on presentations, with models walking around showrooms to show how the clothes are worn. The shows are attended by magazine and newspaper editors, hundreds of international press, stylists, store buyers to place their orders for the following season, and a large number of movie stars, celebrities and VIPS. It’s a grueling month each time for the people who put on the shows, and an exciting time for everyone who attends them. It never seems to get old. The shows are by invitation only, are in spectacular locations, and those shows and all the razzle dazzle surrounding them are a highlight of the fashion world twice a year. I usually attend the fall/winter shows, and skip the spring/summer ones, because my youngest daughter’s birthday falls during those shows, and I spend that time with her. But I check the shows out on line, to see what fashions are coming. And during the various fashion weeks, the design houses give lots of parties to celebrate the event.
Normally, I would be writing to you about the shows I attended, telling you about the stage setting, the clothes, the models and the vast group of exotic and important spectators, the followers and creators of fashion. But Fate threw a heavy monkey wrench into the fashion world, and the entire world, in the last few weeks. As I’m sure most of you have read, a virus called the Corona Virus has begun to spread worldwide. Allegedly, it appeared noticeably only weeks ago in an industrial area of China, where many, many factories exist, producing a wide variety of products, including those involving fashion, as well as high tech products, and many, many things. Perhaps due to the density of the population in the area, the greatest number of people stricken by the virus is in China, with 89,000 people affected, and just under 3,000 deaths. All forms of flu are potentially very dangerous, and 80,000 Americans die of the flu each year. (My own mother died of the flu, and was in relatively healthy energetic shape when she got sick.) It would appear that most of the people who have died of the Corona Virus had pre-existing conditions which made them more vulnerable. The elderly are cited as more at risk, and I’ve heard that men are more vulnerable to it, and I have no idea if that is true. Rumors about the virus are rampant, and many countries around the world now have anywhere from a handful of cases, to a few hundred, to several thousand. How did people get it? How did it get so out of hand, particularly in Asia? How is it transmitted, no one is sure, which lends to the rumors and a certain degree of panic. There is a test for it, in limited supply, which even doctors are finding it hard to obtain. And some people get it so mildly that they don’t even know they have it, and think they have the common cold. The danger there is that if they don’t suspect they have the virus, they continue circulating in the cities where they live, or travel, infecting others without realizing they are. And the bad news is that the incubation period is 2 weeks, so that a healthy person wouldn’t know they are incubating it, and it is highly contagious during that asymptomatic time of incubation.
The persistence of it, as cases continue to crop up in every country around the world, is unnerving. Public reaction to it ranges from denial of its seriousness, to outright panic. Once sick, in some places, people have been quarantined, in other countries people are simply asked to confine themselves. But there are no consistent rules about what to do with those who are sick. A week ago, Italy, which had very few cases, less than twenty, experienced an explosion of the number of Corona Virus victims, all or most stemming from an industrial factory town two hours from Milan, where most of the factories are which produce fashion related items. It was similar, on a smaller scale, to what had occurred weeks before in China. And it was also a factory town visited by people of many nationalities, flying in to do business there. It happened at the time of Milan Fashion Week, and ultimately many of the people who visited those factories participated in Milan Fashion Week, and then went to Paris to participate in fashion week there. And in that case, during the silent incubation period. So no one knows yet how many people at Paris Fashion Week will ultimately be impacted and infected as a result of the outbreak in Milan. Cases have continued to increase in Italy, and the number has grown in France. And when all the people of many nationalities go home again, to their own countries, the disease may spread exponentially again.
As a result, parties in Paris were cancelled and only one show. But people cancelled out of many events, and tried to stave off germs with hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial drenched ‘towelettes’.Meanwhile the factories in Italy, and in China, and elsewhere around the world, have been closed until the epidemic is under control. In some places, people have been quarantined, and in others not, while we wait to see where this goes. What we don’t know about it is scarier than what we do. And not being a high risk taker, I cancelled out of the shows I wanted to see, and the atmosphere surrounding Paris Fashion Week has been tense. And personally, I would rather miss out on the shows and the fun, than to risk contagion and contamination from people who don’t know they are incubating the Corona Virus, and might be sitting next to me at a show. It just isn’t worth the risk. I’ve seen lots of fashion shows, and will see more again at a safer time. Precautions people are taking cover a wide range from ‘pooh poohing’ the risks, and others who simply decided not to take a chance, packed up and went home.
As an extreme comparison, I am reminded of the infamous Spanish Flu, which happened between 1917 and 1919. The statistics on The Spanish Flu are staggering. It was 100 years ago, when medications were less sophisticated and available than they are today. It struck right at the end of World War I, figures on it vary, but it is thought that 500 million people worldwide were infected with it, and 50 to 100 million people died, more than twice the number of people who were killed in the war. It is inconceivable that we could be struck to that degree today. But the rapid wide spread of this virus has caught the world’s attention, as we pause to see what will come next. Schools across the country are talking about closing, for several months. Businesses are encouraging people to work from home, to avoid contagion. And we are waiting for further guidelines and information, hoping that this will not grow to more major proportions than it is now. Some people say it will be over in April. But we really don’t know.
Stay safe, be careful. It is something to take very seriously. Follow whatever directions we are given by reliable sources. And I hope and pray that the epidemic will be rapidly brought under control. Take care, and have a peaceful, healthy week,