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Personal Foul

Sunday's big contest is not just between the Patriots and the Eagles, it's between football and fashion.

When my daughter made her First Holy Communion, she wore a dress copied from an old favorite Romeo Gigli of mine — plain navy jersey, Empire waist — reworked in miniature in the requisite white. Shortly before the big event, she wanted to give her look a try-out.

“Mom, where’s my kickoff of Romeo?”

“Knockoff, Grainne, not kickoff.”

It was an ironic malapropism, because much to the chagrin of her grandfather, six uncles and, truth be told, her mother — Grainne made her First Communion on Jan. 31, 1993. Super Bowl Sunday. As mom to girl-of-the-moment, I had to put on my game — er, Communion — face, and feign delight, even though I wished secretly that the saintly old nun who scheduled the affair was a bit more in touch with matters of this world. So much so that I managed to wrap up the post-ceremony soiree by kickoff. While various family members were tuning grumpily into car radios en route back home to upstate New York and Boston, my new communicant and I were nestled up in front of the television set. Final score: Dallas 52, Buffalo 17.

Which brings me to the events of this Sunday. When the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots kick off, I will be nestled into an ultrachic but overheated space on West 12th Street, anticipating the start of Diane von Furstenberg’s show. Diane will be followed by Tuleh, and Tuleh in turn by Luca Luca. Which means that I should be in front of my TV at just about the time Donovan McNabb (knock wood) is hoisting that big, gaudy trophy overhead as champagne trickles down over his exhausted yet jubilant brow.

Despite the presence around me of every retailer and journalist in fashion, in one way I will feel alone as I take in that trio of shows. Because save for the comradeship of my dashing friend and colleague Ed Nardoza, almost nobody else cares about missing the Super Bowl. Nor do the disinterested understand that in moments of true human drama and suspense, TiVo can’t replace real-time viewing. All of which just makes the situation worse, since like a press-savvy designer, misery loves a crowd. At least this time around, I don’t have to fake pleasure in the scheduling folly, because, well, I’m not Bryan Bradley’s mom.

This story first appeared in the February 5, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Super Bowl is perhaps the one mega pop culture, advertising-media blockbuster event that leaves the fashion crowd cold. Last year, it trumped the Oscars in U.S. viewers, 89.8 million to 43.5 million, as well as ad rates — $2.3 million for a 30-second spot versus $1.5 million. Could the fashion world’s disinterest stem from the horror of Bill Belichick dishevelment? The Apple Pie cheesiness of the Patriots jersey? The fact that no one grunts anti-chic like a 300-pound lineman? Or maybe that for this crowd, clipping is something that happens to bangs and too much chiffon?

Even so, shouldn’t this monster media event matter to someone in this industry? Not to CFDA executive director Peter Arnold, as in the Philadelphia Arnolds, who cares “not at all.” Nor to von Furstenberg, who claims that she might have changed her show time had the invitations not already been printed. “I felt bad when I found out,” she says. “But how many people would really watch? At least we didn’t have a New York team in.”

And Tuleh’s Bryan Bradley just offers a disengaged sigh: “Apparently the fashion people and the football people aren’t talking.”

Touché, Bryan, and the disinterest seems mutual. I regret to report that a call to the NFL communications office, albeit one placed late on Thursday when perhaps attentions were otherwise diverted, was not returned. 

In random industry polling, I have happened upon only one other person who would watch if he could. “Do you know who won the [NFL championship] games?” Gilles Bensimon inquired during couture.

“Gilles, I didn’t know you cared!”

“Yes, I care. I would walk 20 miles in the snow to go to the Super Bowl. I think I’ve become an American or something.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps Bensimon recognizes that fashion and football share points of convergence. Retro to one is old-school to the other. Two of football’s most notorious events of the past year involved fashion. Remember Janet Jackson’s disappearing bodice and Nicolette Sheridan’s white towel? (Sheridan’s  partner in locker room naughtiness, the fashionably flamboyant Terrell Owens, is supposed to make his return to the field on Sunday.) For many retailers, the Super Bowl is a mini Christmas in February, expected to bring in $5.6 billion, much of it apparel and accessories (granted not of the chicest sort). And while Tom Brady may be no Derek Jeter, he is plenty cute in that beefed-up male model kind of way. 

Thus, while it’s too late for this year, hope does spring eternal. Candy Pratts Price doesn’t care about the Super Bowl per se, but she can relate to some of its excesses. “I care about the food around the Super Bowl, the chili, the beer,” she says. “I love that every bar is full of male activity; a girl can just walk in and hunt if she wants to. I love the technology of that little squiggle pen for drawing on the television screen. It could work well for us [at Style.com]: ‘Notice the heel on the Marc Jacobs silhouette. Notice that Pat McGrath has lightened the eyebrow.’”

Thank you, Candy, for acknowledging that fashion and football can share and learn from each other. Still, to get serious, she’ll have to get her sports straight. “I love the whole idea of running from one room into the other,” she says, “and asking, ‘Who’s up?’”