Milan Calendar Clash Intensifies

MILAN — The prickly issue of the length of the Milan fashion show calendar has arisen once again after an Italian daily newspaper published private correspondence between S.I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Condé Nast; Jonathan Newhouse,...

MILAN — The prickly issue of the length of the Milan fashion show calendar has arisen once again after an Italian daily newspaper published private correspondence between S.I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Condé Nast; Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International, and Mario Boselli, head of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, last week.

In one of the letters, Jonathan Newhouse asked Boselli to “have important designer shows concentrated in a four-day period,” describing fashion week as “untenable — much too costly and too long.”

Boselli, meanwhile, said he was “very angry and disappointed” the letters were leaked to the press and divulged without his consent. He also regretted that S.I. Newhouse Jr. declined to meet him to talk about the calendar, as stated in a letter dated April 4.

S.I. Newhouse Jr. said in his letter that he “fully support[ed]” Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani, who met with Boselli last fall with the same requests to shorten the show calendar.

Wintour was in London last week to meet with Stuart Rose, chief executive officer of Marks & Spencer and head of the British Fashion Council, about moving London Fashion Week to fall between Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks, a Vogue spokesman said, adding, “She’s obviously very disappointed and equally bewildered about why the Italians insist on turning a deaf ear to a very real problem for a lot of people.” (Condé Nast, like WWD, is owned by Advance Publications Inc.)

Colin McDowell of The Sunday Times Style, who arranged for Wintour to speak about British fashion at The British Museum while she was in town, said, “Sadly, there are far too many shows in the entire fashion schedule and we see far too many shows we don’t need to see. In Milan, the very rich and powerful can force us to go.” He added, “I’m surprised no one is complaining about Paris, which is even more crowded, although the difference, I believe, is that every show there is exciting.”

“I still hope we can meet; a battle is not good for anyone,” Boselli said on Thursday. “This is a difficult moment [in fashion] and we must all join forces.”

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On Friday, Jonathan Newhouse gave this statement: “I am disappointed and a bit shocked that the Milan prêt-á-porter brushed aside the request without the slightest effort to consider the needs of editors. The purpose of Milan is to serve industry, but Milan has not responded to this serious request from the publishing industry.”

While many Italian designers endorse the idea of a shorter fashion week and are willing to work to improve the calendar, the question is whether big names would agree to show on the same day, sharing the same models, hairstylists and makeup artists. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, in a video appearance at a convention on fashion here earlier this week, declared their support in having the “big” designers spread over four days and to better concentrate the schedule.

“We can certainly try to improve the calendar and work on scheduling the more international designers over fewer days, but those designers are precisely the ones who don’t want to show on the same day [as their competitors],” said Vittorio Missoni, marketing director and sales manager at Missoni and vice president of the Chamber of Fashion. Moreover, Missoni feared many designers would simply position themselves outside the official calendar to squeeze in with the “big” names — something that has happened in the past.

Other suggestions from the design houses contacted by WWD included that companies should quit staging double shows and ones for secondary lines. Last season, Prada, Miu Miu, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Versace, Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana and Ferré each held two shows.

Said Santo Versace, chairman at Versace: “If we each staged one show for the main brand [instead of one for the press and one for the buyers], that would help the calendar.” 

Many designers resented the interference from the American press, stating the same length issues exist in New York and Paris. Over the 1994-2004 period, the average length of show days in Paris, Milan and New York was 8.8, 8.5 and 7.8, respectively, according to research issued by Bocconi University.

The spring 2006 shows in Milan are scheduled from Sept. 24-Oct. 2.  

“The current schedule allows room for young designers to show in a global contest,” said Gianfranco Ferré. “Any changes shouldn’t be dictated by external pressure.”

“The calendar must certainly be reconsidered, but in these terms, it appears to be unilateral,” said Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò, the Italian manufacturer that produces collections for Viktor & Rolf, Hussein Chalayan and Paul Smith, among others, in addition to its own Gibò line. “The heads of the Paris, Milan and New York fashion associations should all sit together and try to figure it out,” he said. Pené also noted that “you cannot force someone not to show,” but that he felt “more precise rules and guidelines” are necessary as Milan is “increasingly industrial and less and less creative.” 

A Giorgio Armani spokesman concurred: “Why should there be discrepancies between the three cities? The governing bodies of the fashion associations should sit down and work on a common strategy.”