The prestigious event kicked off on Tuesday evening with a ‘China, We are With You’ fashion show from New York-based Chinese designer, Han Wen.

Of the 56 shows, 96 presentations and 40 or so events planned over five days, the three Chinese designers with fashion shows scheduled – Angel Chen, Ricostru and Hui – have all pulled out in the wake of the outbreak.

Italy was the first European country to ban all flights to and from China last month in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading.

In addition, the closure of production workshops in China made it impossible to meet the production deadlines for the event.

The Chinese absence will be felt both on the catwalks and behind the scenes, in showrooms where international buyers order pieces to be sold in luxury boutiques around the world.

To overcome this obstacle, the National Chamber for Italian Fashion has launched a series of digital platforms to connect buyers in China by giving them access to the catwalks in streaming.

Italian fashion giant Prada has even brought its show on Thursday forward from 6:30pm to 4:00 pm to make it more accessible to the Chinese market.

Interviews with designers and live shows in the heart of the showrooms will also be made available online.

China was set to star at the event with the Chinese-Italian Fashion Town initiative sponsored by the Chinese retail giant Chic Group, giving eight emerging Chinese brands the opportunity to present their collections at the hub dedicated to buyers.

The designers will now have a virtual presence with video links.

China accounts for over a third of global luxury consumption and the coronavirus outbreak has already cost Italy’s fashion industry millions of euros.

The National Chamber for Italian Fashion said the economic impact of the outbreak was “currently not calculable”.

Using the 2003-2004 SARS outbreak as a guide, it said an “optimistic” estimate would be for Italian exports to decline by a minimum of €100 million in the first quarter of 2020 and €230 million “in the event of a prolonged crisis” for the first half of the year.