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The industry’s gearing up to make the most of a tightly scheduled fashion week.
Here’s hoping a fashion week that’s shorter can be sweeter, too.
Fashion week players — designers, retailers, editors and show organizers — are still mulling the implications of the compressed New York schedule.
With Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week spring shows switching places with London Fashion Week on the calendar so New York could avoid staging shows on Sept. 11 and over the Jewish holidays, as reported, London will now present its fashion week from Sept. 12-17, while New York is scheduled for Sept. 18-23.
The New York shows also had to be sandwiched between London and Milan’s fashion weeks. The reduced New York schedule is now six days — it was eight in the past — with the last two days falling on the weekend, an undesirable time to show, according to most designers. The timing of the Milan shows, which officially start on Monday, Sept. 23 and run through Tuesday, Oct. 1, added to the brouhaha: many designers feared buyers and models would jet off to Italy before New York’s fashion week ran its course. So most of fashion’s biggest names scrambled to show during the first three days of the New York calendar.
So what’s the fallout from the scheduling follies? Most in the fashion pack feel the upcoming week is going to be concentrated and frenzied, but manageable. While the number of days has been shortened, the number of shows has been reduced, as well.
Last season, there were roughly 80 shows on the 7th on Sixth calendar compared with about 60 this time. Though fears that buyers, editors and models would leave early have not entirely subsided, the worries of smaller designers, who also requested slots on the first three official days but ended up with the last three, have eased somewhat, in part thanks to Ralph Lauren, who said he would hold two Saturday evening presentations.
Peter Arnold, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said the condensed schedule for New York represents the best possible answer to the question of how to work around the religious holidays and the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He added that the number of shows one might attend in one day in New York would be roughly equivalent to a day’s worth of shows during Paris Fashion Week.
Despite his belief that most people would actually prefer a condensed schedule over a more drawn-out one, Arnold admitted the plan wasn’t flawless.
“The part that is most upsetting to me is that there is more than one person showing at the same time,” Arnold said. “You’ve got some smaller designers showing against one another and inevitably all that’s going to do is lose retailers and press. In February, we go back to a robust schedule.”
Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, expressed similar sentiments regarding overlapping shows. But Kaner said she preferred the tighter schedule.
“I wish there were always five days of truly important, meaningful shows,” she said. “The smaller people should get together and do a small presentation in the same place. It gives an opportunity for everybody to be seen and no one has the major expense of a big show.”
Divide and conquer is how Glamour magazine editor in chief Cindi Leive said she and her staff plan to cover the mini-week. Leive, who’s headed to Los Angeles on Sept. 22 to host Glamour’s Do’s and Dont’s Emmy party, said she plans to attend all the major shows, most of which do not have scheduling conflicts and take place during the first few days. This includes Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez, Donna Karan, Vera Wang and Matthew Williamson.
“Members of my staff who want to attend both up-and-coming and high-profile designers won’t have it so easy,” Leive said. “They’re going to be the ones running themselves ragged.”
Since she’s pregnant, Leive will sit out Europe this time around, but said the Glamour staff will cover the European shows in a “no-Manolos, sneakers-only kind of mad dash.”
Leive said magazines like Glamour who have ample staffs won’t have a problem, but said she was concerned about smaller magazines that don’t have the budget or personnel to hit all the shows abroad.
Marie Claire fashion director Lucy Sykes said covering all the New York shows is not a problem, despite the potentially more hectic pace this time around.
“If that’s the way the cookie crumbles, then that’s that,” she said. “[When covering the Europeans shows] we’re used to doing seven, eight shows a day.”
Like editors, retailers often spend the lion’s share of fashion week hurrying between show venues and showrooms. Usually, the bulk of pre-buys is completed by fashion week — many use the shows to round out orders and zero in on emerging favorites — and many said that despite the squeeze, they don’t see a need to double their stash of Tylenol this season.
Rather than aim to attend as many shows as possible, buyers said the compressed schedule simply means they will have to edit the number of shows they attend and allocate certain shows to different buyers.
“The shows are such an important part of what we do that even if they were [held] in the Arctic Circle in the middle of Christmas we’d be there,” said Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising and communications at Saks Fifth Avenue. “We plan around it, it won’t plan around us.”
This season, Lividini will not be traveling to London Fashion Week, but she said she will pick up some of the London collections at showroom appointments in Milan and Paris. Lividini’s tentative plan is to leave New York for Milan on Sept. 25, after the shows there start. A Saks market director will be in Milan for the first two days.
“The buyers who go to Europe are different from the ones who buy in New York, so it’s not really an issue for us,” Lividini noted. “It’s our job to cover fashion. It was an important decision to move the shows this year, so it’s our duty to be supportive of it.”
Going with the flow is what Julie Gilhart, vice president of merchandising at Barneys New York, said she and her staff have tried to do this season as well. Gilhart said she was tentatively scheduled to go to London on Thursday, Sept. 12, aiming for a return in time for New York on the following Monday or Tuesday.
“We have to look carefully at expenses and at where the time is best spent,” Gilhart said. “So we work as a team and try to get everything covered.”
Ed Burstell, Henri Bendel’s vice president and general manager, said he will return from London on Tuesday, Sept. 17, in time for the Diane Von Furstenberg show, which is slated to begin at 6 p.m. that evening.
While Tuesday is not officially considered part of the Mercedes-Benz fashion week schedule, since it is also the last day of the London shows, a bevy of designers, including Douglas Hannant, Badgley Mischka, Nicole Miller, Diane Von Furstenburg, Heatherette and Imitation of Christ, are all showing then.
Badgley Mischka was originally scheduled for a Thursday time slot, but changed to Tuesday after running into problems with models’ availability, among other scheduling issues. But before confirming the switch, the company checked with magazine editors and retailers to see if they would be in town.
Lars Nilsson, creative director of Bill Blass, also said models were a primary concern of the shortened schedule, noting that one of the main reasons to show early in the week was that top models would be heading to Milan during the latter half of the week. Bill Blass will show on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 9 a.m.
“It was really a question of so many things — the Jewish holidays, Sept. 11, then Milan and Paris. I really think the organizers did the best they could do,” said Nilsson. “But in the future, they need to sit down and really think about it because it’s very concentrated this time.”
“We would not have shown on Tuesday if we didn’t think we would have 99 percent of our attendants able to come,” said James Mischka. “It was also a long time for London. They had the same number of days, which seems strange because there are a lot more shows in New York.”
Meanwhile, Oscar de la Renta, who plans to show on Sept. 18, said he doesn’t foresee any major difficulties surrounding his show, but is concerned that retailers might head to Milan without having time to leave orders, making business projections difficult.
“We certainly take a position on certain fabrics before the show, but nevertheless, a confirmation of some kind about what we’re doing is good,” said de la Renta. “Normally by the following week we have a good sense of what’s going on, but with everybody leaving for Milan, that is my only concern.”
Show organizers can also run into problems when they have clients on both sides of the Atlantic. Kevin Krier, president of public relations agency Kevin Krier Associates, said he had to turn down business in New York, since he plans to head overseas on the second day of New York fashion week to finalize plans for his European clients, which include Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney.
Krier’s firm will produce the Behnaz Sarafpour, Badgley Mischka, Carolina Herrera, Anne Klein and Diesel shows in New York, but Krier himself will leave on Thursday, Sept. 19 for Milan.
“Here in America, we’re never used to showing on the weekend, whereas in Europe, they do it all the time. There’s shows night and day every day over there,” Krier said.
But in order to properly remember Sept. 11, there is no question the show schedule needed to be pushed back, Krier added.
Like Krier, Ali Taekman, director of public relations for RandM Productions, which will produce the Luella Bartley, BCBG Max Azria, Rosa Cha, Matthew Williamson, Alice Roi and Jeremy Scott shows, said her clients were concerned about showing over the weekend.
“I don’t have one designer that would agree to show on Sunday,” Taekman said. “It was out of the question. Seventh on Sixth was trying to push it and we tried to be cooperative, but designers are fearful that buyers, press and models were going to leave and go to Milan.”
Despite having fewer shows to organize — last season Taekman planned almost twice as many — she said when the big-name designers signed up for the first three days, it made her job very difficult. Representing British designers such as Bartley and Williamson only complicated matters further, since Taekman said she received complaints about international designers snagging good show spots on the Americans’ home turf.
Some companies, including Betsey Johnson and Chaiken, decided to skip fashion week altogether. Johnson combined her spring runway show with her 60th birthday party in August at her home in East Hampton, N.Y., while designer Julie Chaiken said she plans to hold off showing until the next fashion week, once things are back to normal.
“My media lady guaranteed me attendance and we got it,” Johnson said. “To do the show twice would have been out of the question. I wish I had the money and brainpower to figure out how I could have done a New York version of it, but it just would not have worked. But I really do feel bad about not being a part of show week this season.”
Meanwhile, Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, said the week will be consistently full, despite rumors that people will flock to Milan early. However, only one of the 13 time slots offered on the last day of fashion week was reserved for a fashion show at press time.
The CFDA’s Arnold said he hopes all the scheduling difficulties drive everyone to realize the need for greater communication and cooperation between all the show organizers.
“There’s a need for a coordinated effort between Milan, London, Paris and New York,” said Arnold. “We need to have everyone agree on a schedule and to decide a time period that is consistent with everyone’s expectations.”