Fashion designers here and in Europe are starting to feel the heat.

The fall collections kick off here this Friday, and many designers are struggling with what they perceive is the earliest-ever start to the runway season — Feb. 3, which is proving to be particularly early for American designers. Many of them have expressed the difficulties they've been having getting fabrics in on time from Italy to be able put together their collections. In the case of Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the late fabric deliveries forced them to reschedule their show to the Thursday of fashion week to allow for some extra time.

Perhaps the most vocal critic to emerge is Marc Jacobs.

"Whoever moved those shows dates up in New York should be executed," he said last Thursday night at a dinner to celebrate his new collection store in Paris, less than 24 hours before his Louis Vuitton men's wear show. "I'm stressed and exhausted."

Jacobs, who juggles multiple men's and women's runway and pre-collections for his signature house and Louis Vuitton, said the time crunch ultimately impedes a designer from doing his best work.

"It's depressing to look at something that's done and know that it's not your best, and think of how good it could have been but you didn't have the time," he said. "Because then it's too late and it's out there forever."

After his Vuitton men's show, Jacobs was slated to rush back to New York to prepare for his Feb. 6 signature show. However, a snag in Vuitton shoe deliveries threatened to delay his Paris departure.

"We are waiting, waiting, waiting for clothes, and because of the dates being so early, everyone will get fabrics and samples at the last minute," Michael Kors said. "Fall collections are always a push, much more so than spring. If you look at the calendar, the timing with Christmas thrown in the middle, it's always a real crush. On top of it, there was a major snowstorm in Milan [on Friday], and the city is at a standstill. There are no planes flying, you can't get bags, shoes, clothes out. I think there will be a lot of late nights."While everyone laments the earlier start, it may just be fashion's version of a windchill. Last year, the fall collections began on Feb. 4. In the past few years the shows have started on the first Friday in February.

Donna Karan is a supporter of New York going first, but she has long been a proponent of a later show cycle, mainly because the early timing is more prone to problems with fabric deliveries and too far away from the selling season.

"It's very hard, because of the fabrics," Karan told WWD in an interview last February. "The European designers have more time to get their fabrics. Because of couture, and the men's shows, getting fabrics out to New York is tough."

Narciso Rodriguez told WWD earlier this month: "Something has to be done about that because it's really unfair to American designers that we have four weeks to put our entire fall collection into work and are depending on fabrics that will arrive at the end of January, beginning of February. Last year, the show was a week later and we received some fabrics a week after the show, which we couldn't use, and that's very frustrating because you put a collection based on everything you are using. It's just not right."

Behnaz Sarafpour said Friday that the time between the fall and spring shows is already shorter and more challenging, a fact that has only magnified with the earlier start.

"But we are in a situation to have to cope with it," she said. "It puts me in a position of having to put pressure on who delivers to me. All it does is push into a frenzy and you have to call U.S. Customs every day and your mill every day and pressure and push them to make things a few days earlier."

It's not just the New York designers who are feeling the crunch either.

"We're going crazy," Stefano Gabbana said. "We just had the men's runway shows for the first line and for D&G, next Wednesday we're presenting the main line, we're working on the women's runway show, coordinating the accessories collection, choosing spring fabrics and working on resort. It's one big blur. For designers who seriously work on the clothes, everything is too close together and too early. Even the manufacturers are in a crisis because they can't meet all our deadlines. I think that the shows in every city should be pushed down by at least one week because even the press gets caught in this vortex."A Giorgio Armani spokesman noted: "Milan Fashion Week is essentially in line with last season's. We swapped Giorgio Armani with Emporio [Giorgio Armani shows on Feb. 20 and Emporio is scheduled for Feb. 22] so it's really not that different. The New York shows instead seem remarkably early....I really think the various governing bodies should connect more with one another. For, example, lots of editors were complaining about the week-long break between the men's wear shows in Milan and Paris. It doesn't make sense."

Marc Karimzadeh, New York, Miles Socha, Paris and Alessandra Ilari, Milan

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