The front rows might still be emptier than usual, but a number of catwalks lit up this weekend as some of fashion's most storied brands showcased their latest collections.
French fashion house Dior returned to live audience shows on Thursday with a firework-punctuated presentation of its 2022 Cruise collection in Athens, held at the Panathenaic stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games.
Watched by celebrities including film star Catherine Deneuve, model Cara Delevingne and The Queen's Gambit actress Anya Taylor Joy as well as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the collection showcased designs inspired by antiquity and traditional Greek dress.
Greek artisans whose work was featured in the collection included a tailor and embroiderer from Argos in the Peloponnese, a silk factory in the north-eastern town of Soufli, and a maker of fisherman's caps from the port of Piraeus.
"I am very interested in the craftsmanship. It's my passion," Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri said.
Cruise collections fall between usual spring / summer and autumn / winter collections – and French houses often visit other countries for the launch.
The peplos, the robe traditionally worn by women in ancient Greece, was a "key inspiration" for the show's tunics, Dior said.
The collection – mostly in black, white, grey, gold and blue – also included sportswear pieces and suits inspired by jackets and pants worn by Marlene Dietrich.
The show took place 70 years after a famous Dior shoot at the Acropolis.
"When I arrived in Dior I found the archive and I said, one day it would be great to realise again this trip in Greece. In some ways, it's an anniversary," Chiuri said.
The designer said getting crowds back, albeit at a limited capacity, was a welcome feeling. The last show with spectators, a smaller affair, was held in September.
"We worked a lot with video, film, but it's completely different to have an audience at our fashion show. It's like a concert," she said.
Milan also welcomes back front-row guests
The Italian fashion industry welcomed back spectators to its shows on Friday, a sign the industry is ready to start turning the page on virtual formats adopted during the pandemic.
The numbers are still modest, with only Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro inviting an audience to their men's spring / summer 2022 collections.
"This is the dress rehearsal of the return to normalcy," said Federica Trotta Mureau, editor of Italian fashion magazine Mia Le Journal.
"The lights that go out and come back on, the music that sounds as soon as the first models come out ... it's an emotion that digital cannot give us."
The bulk of the 47 fashion shows taking place over five days will remain digital, with the likes of Ermenegildo Zegna, Prada and Fendi plumping for a virtual display.
In a live show on Saturday, meanwhile, Dolce & Gabbana presented a collection inspired by the extravagant lighting installations of southern Italian street festivals.
Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana called their collection “light therapy” for a world that has been mostly denied large gatherings for the past 15 months.
“Fashion is emotion,’’ Gabbana said backstage before the show. “We experimented last season with a digital show. It is not the same. It was without adrenalin.”
Their live show with a socially distanced audience of invited guests was the first inside their showroom since the pandemic forced Milan Fashion Week to go mostly digital in recent seasons.