London Fashion Set Furious at Changes

LONDON — London Fashion Week organizers — and journalists based in the U.K. — are fuming over the latest changes to the New York show calendar.<br><br>John Wilson, director of the British Fashion Council, sent a letter to Fern...

LONDON — London Fashion Week organizers — and journalists based in the U.K. — are fuming over the latest changes to the New York show calendar.

This story first appeared in the July 16, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

John Wilson, director of the British Fashion Council, sent a letter to Fern Mallis, executive director of New York’s 7th on Sixth, on Friday, saying he was not pleased with the development that a band of American designers are planning to show on Sept. 17, which is the last day of London Fashion Week. Those designers are doing so against the wishes of 7th on Sixth, which brokered a deal for London and New York to switch places on the four-city fashion show circuit for this season in consideration of events taking place in Manhattan to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We are very disappointed and very unhappy,” Wilson told WWD. “This move makes a mockery of the international cooperation to organize this particular season’s show schedule. In addition, I think it’s insulting to suggest that buyers and the press wouldn’t want to work over the weekend. At that time of year, we’re all used to working on weekends.”

Mallis said she agreed with the points raised in the letter and expressed disappointment with those designers who scheduled shows on Sept. 17, a group that includes Diane Von Furstenberg, Nicole Miller and Behnaz Sarafpour. Listings for those designer shows will not be included in the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week calendar, which will cover shows from Sept. 18-23. But several of the designers showing on Sept. 17 have said they felt they had no other option after the majority of major league shows were scheduled on the first three days of the New York season.

Wilson said he told Mallis that he hoped “reason would prevail.” He said Monday that he wasn’t expecting a response from Mallis. “She’s aware of our position, and I’m sure she’s working hard to solve the problem. Let’s see where it goes from here.”

The London show lineup is still being hammered out, Wilson said, adding that 50 shows would be scheduled over the six days from Sept. 12-17. Meanwhile, London-based fashion editors said they are playing a waiting game.

“This situation makes you want to tear your hair out,” said Hilary Alexander, fashion editor of The Telegraph. “It’s impossible for journalists to choose between the two cities. At the moment, we’re waiting to see how the London and New York schedules take shape, and then we’ll weigh up which shows we’ll be attending.

“Someone’s going to miss out in all of this,” she added. “It’s just so crazy, the schedule this season was about cooperation — not war.”

Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, said she felt the latest moves in New York were a slap to London. “London agreed to swap dates at a certain amount of inconvenience, so I’m very disappointed that some designers are not respecting that,” she said. “Had London not made the change, some New York designers might have had to show on Sept. 11, and I think they should remember that.”

Shulman said that anyone planning shows in New York on Sept. 17 shouldn’t expect Londoners to be there. “I think the earliest we can be expected to arrive in New York is the evening of Sept. 18.”

However, Von Furstenberg said she had originally been told that London was ending a day earlier, on Sept. 16. “I am so upset about this. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I tried to change my show but I can’t. All the slots are taken,” she said. After calling Wilson on Monday to apologize, she added that, in her opinion, the London crowd can have it both ways: “They can take an afternoon flight to New York and make it in time for the show.”