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 medical 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,” a spokeswoman for the brand said. Together with another Italian brand, Etro, which also held 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. ‘We want to give a positive message, a message of rebirth — it’s possible to start again, respecting safety measures,’ a spokeswoman for the brand saidThe 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 a crowd of 200, mostly Italian guests, including rappers and footballers. The usual front row of A-list foreign celebrities and large Chinese contingent of buyers, media and influencers will be kept away by coronavirus restrictions on travel. 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.The show is aimed at supporting Humanitas’ COVID-19 research. Its sponsors have donated money to the project and guests will also be encouraged to contribute.