BEVERLY HILLS — The Paris shows will have some competition next year — with Oscar.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed on Tuesday that the 2006 Oscars will take place March 5 — the last day of Paris Fashion Week, typically full of shows by major designers such as Christian Dior’s John Galliano and Chloé, among others, judging from this year’s lineup.
The decision to delay the Academy Awards for a week is to avoid a conflict with the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, which is slated for Feb. 26.
“Obviously, we wouldn’t want to do that to television watchers,” said Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger. But clearly, Oscar likes to have the audience to himself, along with the ratings and the revenue — about $50 million — that keep the organization afloat. If the show gets a larger audience with a March air date, then it may stay that way, although the Academy said it is likely to switch back to this year’s schedule in 2007.
Back in fashion land, Paris now needs to brace itself for the logistical issues that Italy had to deal with this year: flying key staff to Los Angeles during show week, missing out on some dressing opportunities and shuffling show dates.
A Paris spokesman for Valentino said an Oscar ceremony during fashion week would not pose a major problem, given the experience of its couture atelier.
However, he suggested the best tactic would be to reach an agreement with an actress ahead of time, as the designer did Sunday with best supporting actress winner Cate Blanchett. “That was done one month and a half prior to the awards,’’ he noted.
French houses agreed that dressing stars at the awards show is a much higher priority than having them front row during fashion week.
“It’s rare that we have international celebrities at our ready-to-wear show,’’ said a spokeswoman for Chanel. “Most of the stars that come to ready-to-wear are European. Of course, if a star who had originally planned to come to the show cancels because they are nominated for an Oscar, we will be disappointed. But their profession is not to come to fashion shows.”French fashion houses said they would welcome the extra preparation time that would come with later Oscar dates.
“It’s always a rush to get couture dresses ready for the Oscars, and any extra time is welcome,” the Chanel spokeswoman said. “In addition, this year it was very hectic, as the Césars [French film awards ceremony] were back-to-back with the Oscars, leaving very little time to prepare.”
But the increasing importance of couture gowns at awards shows — and couture’s unique place in Paris — means that all the soothsaying now may change. Versace had the same party line last year, but two months later moved the date of its Milan show up four days.
And this year’s trend of choosing one top actress to dress exclusively may become more standard next year, so that designers can have even more time to select and produce a couture dress.
Clearly, this was already an issue this year with Hilary Swank’s Calvin Klein dress not being finished in time for the big day. If those are concerns for a sleek, streamlined look, one can only imagine the issues this will create for a hand-beaded, intricate number like Charlize Theron’s Dior Couture.
Once the show schedule is announced, expect to see some designers trying to jockey for an earlier date. Who wants to have their show go up against one of the most-watched television events? And who really wants to miss out on having an A-lister in the front row because she’s got to accept a statuette across the pond?
Then there’s the issue of getting those catwalk creations to Hollywood in time to get them on the stars. This year, stylist Jessica Paster received a Versace hot off the runway via Federal Express on Saturday night, but that still wasn’t enough time to get it on anyone.
The new date could hurt or help some designers, but it will certainly help those younger designers like Azzaro who don’t do couture. The house, known for its streamlined, unfussy gowns, has seen its first sales of the season, posted Tuesday, spike partly because of the exposure it got on the backs of Mischa Barton, Teri Hatcher and Julie Delpy this awards season.Hollywood stylists, for their part, are thrilled to have the extra days to prepare. Even though many favor French designers, they insist that “their girls,” meaning their hot clients, operate on a schedule separate from fashion week craziness.
“It doesn’t affect what I do,” said Paster, who styled Blanchett. “We end up getting what we need regardless. If anything, with more time we could even get a few stragglers in right after the shows.”
Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig agreed, and pointed out that even with logistical difficulties, Italians still had a good year.
“Next year, I’ll be able to go to the Milan shows, and if I see a dress I like I’m taking it back with me on the airplane,” she said. As for Parisian possibilities, “The designers who really care about dressing actresses will still find a way to do so,’’ Rosenzweig said. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Indeed, Donatella Versace sent her right-hand man ahead to Hollywood this year, and followed on a jet the day after her show. But for the French, who rely on in-house dressmakers and craftsmen to get their gowns on the runways, sparing key staff may not be so easy.
French designers are not as keen on flying to Hollywood to ensure gowns get worn. Dior’s U.S. president Marla Sabo was in town on Sunday, then flew back Monday to arrive in Paris hours before Dior’s Tuesday show, but designers such as John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld rarely make an appearance in Hollywood.
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