PARIS--The fashion flock is feeling abused. The next time buyers and press go to the European collections--a frenzied affair, even in the best of circumstances--they don't want to work double time. This season's shows started late, ended late and were spread out over more days than in the past. Along with all the glamour, shine, shape and sexiness, designers managed to inject a heavy dose of drudgery into the collections, all because of bad planning. A prime example was the Vivienne Westwood show. The designer sent out so many invitations that buyers and press were almost shut out by Viv's groupies, and a few show-goers were even trampled as they stormed through the barricades. Vogue's Anna Wintour fired off a missive to the Chambre Syndicale, asking for reforms in the schedule, while retailers and press charged that the collections drag on for so many days that their stays are becoming too costly. Designers, meanwhile, are blaming the Chambre Syndicale for allowing too many companies into the fold: "Who does [Chambre head] Jacques Mouclier think he is, General de Gaulle?" asked one designer. But designers are also blaming their colleagues--especially Vivienne Westwood and Claude Montana--for running late and throwing off the entire schedule in Paris. Others say that those who complain are whining simply because they have to put in a few long hours. Here, reaction to the recent show schedules in Paris and Milan. Jérôme L'Hullier: "It's not normal that designers are two hours late. I was ready to show my collection at 7:30, but because of Vivienne Westwood, we all had to sit around until 9:15. I'm a young designer and am not rich enough to have scores of people just standing around waiting for others to get their act together. If Mr. Givenchy can begin his show on time, then everyone else can do so, as well." Rose Marie Bravo, president, Saks Fifth Avenue: "We were all exhausted and wiped out from the schedule." She described the situation overseas as "impossible." "It's way too long to be away from business here. And waiting for two hours for a show to start is impossible. We didn't get out of shows until 11 p.m. many nights. Perhaps the scheduling needs to be changed and the shows shortened." Adrienne Hoyer, senior vice president at I. Magnin: "It was very difficult. There's no excuse for a show at nine in the morning to be late, but they were. As the day went on, it just got longer and longer with a lot of lost time. I had buyers taking PCs into the shows to write orders." Liz Tilberis, editor in chief, Harper's Bazaar: "[The Paris designers] showed an amazing set of collections, but it was way too long. The buyers were beginning to moan. We figured out we waited in our seats five extra hours," she said. Tilberis said the Paris schedule needs to be reworked, otherwise "it will put off people going to Paris." "If that schedule comes through again, no one could afford to be away that much." Tilberis suggested that the less important designers should show during the first week, and the big designers during the second week. "They're taking advantage," she said. She noted she needed to be back in New York to close her December issue. "Paris has to sort it out. It's never been a problem before. People will lose faith in Paris." Taking into account Milan and Paris, Tilberis said she was away 17 days, as opposed to 10 days in previous seasons. Carlo D'Amario, business manager, Vivienne Westwood: "Look, Paris has won the battle with Milan to be the place to stage fashion. Now is the time to make Paris more selective. This season, ready-to-wear was more like couture than ever. Well, people should learn a lesson from this and make the choice of shows in Paris more discriminating." D'Amario also blamed what he saw as over-accreditation of photographers by the Chambre Syndicale. "I'll tell you why there is a mass of people fighting to get into the shows: Because scores of photographers are given a green pass to get inside the Carrousel, and that means they try to hustle into every event." Karl Lagerfeld: "We began KL 90 minutes late, but that's because the previous show ran late, too. You don't know what the girls look like when they come back from Marcel Marongiu. It was too much. "Everyone was bored on Saturday and Sunday. It wasn't as if Saint Laurent did something special. Perhaps there should be some selection. There were quite a few names I'd never heard of. But I suppose everyone must have their chance. You've got to start somewhere. "In future, I'm going to advance the date of Chanel. It was Denise Dubois of the Chambre Syndicale who asked Chanel to be later in the season. Otherwise, everyone would have left. "It isn't the designer's fault if shows begin late. That's because of the hairdressers, makeup people and models who wake up late from their bed. I think the thing that drove everyone mad was the late shows. People couldn't even stop for dinner. It's one thing to stay up for Galliano, who creates fashion entertainment, or Gaultier. But it's another story to expect people to go to a late show of Céline. It's only leather bags." Anna Wintour, editor in chief, Vogue: Peeved by the unusual length of the Paris collections, Wintour wrote a letter to Denise Dubois, director of communications for the Chambre Syndicale, seeking help in scheduling future shows. "They know who the key collections are and there should be a way to cluster them together," said Wintour. "Leaving Chanel until the last day keeps everybody there." Wintour suggested that if the main designers were grouped together, she could divvy up the shows among her key editors. "To keep all the key people there all that time...we have to put out a magazine," said Wintour. She also pointed to the high costs of keeping her editors in hotels for at least two or three nights longer than usual. Wintour said she'd rather see shows late into the night than have to stay in Paris several days longer. She also suggested having the less important designers show at night. Michel Klein: "When I think that Anna Wintour takes the Concorde whenever she likes, stays in the Ritz and always has a car and driver, while lots of other people break their backs for months to get a collection ready, then I consider it indecent of her to complain about there being too many shows. "Real journalists have the ability to go along to many shows and work late and write well. That's their job, and they don't cry. There are young people in la mode who work 18 hours a day for weeks before a show. But it's never the girl who takes the metro who complains, it's always the woman in the Ritz and in the Rolls who whines. "I'd also like to say there's a new virus in fashion that people say they can't go to a show in the evening because they are exhausted. Diplomatically tired, I'd say. Real professionals don't find excuses! I've never heard Joan Juliet Buck complaining. I'll admit, there were a lot of late shows this season. I'm partly responsible myself. But all the same, I didn't see lots of exhausted people at John Galliano. They seemed full of life to me. "I agree there are too many shows. We are trying to fit into Paris what we used to fit into all of Europe. But it's part of Paris's spirit to host foreign designers, and that mustn't stop." Jacques Mouclier, president of the Chambre Syndicale: "I'm about to write a letter to all the houses. In the past, a half-hour late was acceptable, but one to one and a half hours is simply too much. There are quite a few houses that need far more rigor," he said. Mouclier insisted that the number of shows was not an issue. "That's proof of our success, surely. It confirms that there is no other fashion capital like Paris. Journalists are free to choose what shows they want to go to, and buyers have the same rights. They are under no obligation to run off to every event. France is a free country, and I can't start saying no to talented designers who want to show here. "When people complain about the amount of shows, I also have to recall that several years back the press insisted that we publish a complete list of all the runway collections to provide a full panorama for visitors to Paris. It's hardly our fault if there are now 80 houses that want to present here." Nan Legaei, chairman, Céline: "I would hate to be in Mouclier's shoes. But I agree, the week was a bit long for both the press and the buyers. But, how can you condense the week? There are so many young designers showing, I just don't see how it could be squeezed." Joan Weinstein, owner, Ultimo: "I cannot spend the time it takes to see all the shows and then write all the lines or I'd never be in the stores." She now only goes to a few key shows, such as Giorgio Armani, Jil Sander, Sonia Rykiel and Richard Tyler, preferring to spend the rest of her time in the showrooms. "The houses have to start working together and do something that makes sense," she said, suggesting they make presentations less time consuming and extravagant, focusing on what is destined for the stores. Suzy Menkes, fashion editor, the International Herald-Tribune: "There have always been some designers like Jean Paul Gaultier who make people wait. No one minds if the show you then see is fantastic. It was like John Galliano and his scene this season. One would have been happy to wait longer to see such beautiful clothes." Menkes disagreed with one of the main complaints about this Paris season--that it was too long. "To me, it is important to see the up-and-coming people like John Rocha," she said. "If you put the Chanels and Yves Saint Laurents all on the same day, then you are telling people just to go to the major ones and forget about the new. That's dangerous for the future of fashion. " Joan Kaner, fashion director, Neiman Marcus: "Do I think the shows were too long? Absolutely. Nearly every show was a minimum of an hour. It made all of our days later." Beppe Modenese, spokesman, Camera della Moda:"In Italy, we are basically in agreement [that the show schedule is too long], and we have tried to concentrate our show calendar as much as possible. We can't do much more than this--we group more than 50 presentations in 4 1/2 days," he said."The Paris shows could really be more concentrated--we have a show just about every hour." Modenese admitted that the tight Milan schedule tends to cause some shows to start late, but he attributed that to logistical problems, such as making sure all the models, journalists and buyers move quickly from one show to the next."We can't force a fashion house to start when everybody isn't there. They work for months to prepare a fashion show, and once it's over, that's it for the next six months. Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale's: "The trip was too long. They could have chopped three days off Milan and Paris and everybody would have been a lot happier." He said that after a while, the intensity and excitement of the shows fizzled out. "We were hostages of fashion," Ruttenstein said. Laura Dubini, fashion correspondent, Corriere Della Sera: "This is absolutely absurd. Not only are there eight full days of shows, but they strategically put Dior at the beginning and Chanel at the end, so you can't leave. It's one thing if you live in Paris, but for those of us who have to come from out of town it's grueling. "It's arrogant and counterproductive. Furthermore, the shows set at eight o'clock at night often start an hour or an hour and a half late, so you aren't out of there until 10 or 10:30." "In Italy, if a designer holds a late show, he or she usually tries to arrange a dinner or something afterwards--so at least you feel like you are being treated well. [In Paris,] there's a violence--even getting into the shows you risk getting punched and shoved and your clothes torn." Patricia Compain, director of the multi-designer Victoire boutique at Place des Victoires: "The shows are always a mess. It's impossible to cover all the shows. The shows should start on time, otherwise you waste two to three hours." Compain also said that the Carrousel de la Mode should take place earlier, and not at the end of the collections.
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