By  on February 2, 2008

Ten years ago in July, two mega institutions were on course to collide in what would have been an unthinkable scheduling catastrophe. So, rather than go tête-à-tête with the World Cup finals then slated for Paris, the Chambre Syndicale rescheduled the haute collections. In a land where fashion is ingrained in the national psyche, and haute couture revered as high art, its gatekeepers realized that sometimes, something's got to give.

Obviously, you know where this is going. Here we are again, and while the rest of America will spend Super Bowl Sunday just as the lords of leisure intended, in a sports bar or at home in front of a shiny new HDTV possibly purchased just for this occasion, we fashion people will be on the front end of a very long show circuit. It's not enough that, given various seasonal vicissitudes, we're likely to miss or mess up Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day (sounds silly, but a biggie for families), the Fourth of July and the particularly grating Labor Day, all for the greater good of the collections. Must we lose out as well on Super Bowl Sunday?

Granted, the World Cup comparison isn't perfect; loath though I am to admit it, the finale for that other kind of football is an international event like no other, while the Super Bowl and its sport are an American obsession with a primarily American audience. (That said, the NFL's international audience grows every year.) But hey, last time I looked — Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley's opinions notwithstanding — New York is part of these United States.

Yet for some bizarre reason, in an industry otherwise obsessed with pop culture, and that prides itself on being oh-so au courant on matters of tabloid-interest celebrity, the sports thing just hasn't captured the fashionista fancy.

That is, this writer would submit, until now. Though to my knowledge, no scientific poll has been conducted on the topic, anecdotal conversation indicates that certain forces have converged to up the fashion-sector interest of this particular Super Bowl. First, God love 'em, there are our own scrappy Giants, unlikely road warriors (for the uninitiated, they've won most of their games away from, rather than at, Giants Stadium), with their red-faced coach who this year has tried hard to only be mean some of the time; their endearing gap-toothed defensive end and aw-shucks, names-will-never-hurt-me quarterback. Who wouldn't be smitten? Then comes the dismal threat of 19-0 and evil Patriots' perfection, on the heels of Spygate, which, according to Senator Arlen Specter in Friday's New York Times, might have all kinds of antitrust implications.Finally, and most telling for the fashion set, is the affair of a certain supermodel X-factor. Three years ago when the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21, Tom Brady was just as handsome as he is now, and had already won two Super Bowls. But his then-girlfriend, Bridget Moynahan, though lovely, wasn't exactly fashion A-list. As mutual arm candy of Gisele Bündchen, however, Brady has charmed editors at a Dolce & Gabbana dinner, cut a debonair swath through the Costume Institute soiree and only last week was called a "Posy Patsie" by the New York Post after he was photographed in his now-famous air boot bringing flowers to Bündchen.

How could fashion folk not take notice?

"That's what someone said to me," said Elle creative director and Gisele expert Joe Zee, when posed with the question. "It doesn't affect me personally — I'm going to L.A. to shoot a cover. But I think people might be a little more intrigued about Tom now than before."

Vogue's Virginia Smith muses that the theory might have merit — but wants it clearly on the record that she's no Ginny Come Lately to the football frenzy. "I have been aware of Tom Brady all along," she said at the Rachel Roy presentation on Thursday. Which is not to say he has wooed and won. When asked for her allegiance, Smith sounded downright offended: "Are you kidding? The Giants! Now if we could just get Eli a supermodel girlfriend."

Long out of the closet regarding his sports obsession, Michael Carl, fashion director of Allure and commissioner of his fantasy football league, agrees that the Bündchen-Brady romance may have upped fashion interest. "I think Gisele running around with him put him in a different category," he says. "Some fashion people who didn't care at all or might have watched for the commercials, may have met him at a party, and so are more interested."

All of which is to suggest that now might be the perfect time to call a moratorium on late-afternoon and evening shows on Super Bowl Sunday. Given that the New York "week" runs for a full eight days, surely the 12 shows scheduled from 5 p.m. on could be worked in elsewhere.Bryan Bradley, whose 7 p.m. Tuleh show puts his collection on the runway about midway through the first quarter, cares nothing about football yet understands the pain of those who must choose. "I shouldn't say this," he says. "I love fashion. But I get it. I mean, Sunday night, seven o'clock, New York City. Super Bowl or not — I could see if people wanted to be somewhere else."

Predictions: Tuleh, Franco-American; Marc Jacobs start, 8:30; Giants, 27-24.

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