By  on September 28, 2007

MILAN — Was Milan's compact fashion week a cost-saving marvel of efficiency — or a harried and grueling experience?

The fashion pack was divided as the major shows came to a close Thursday, with some left bedraggled and peeved, and others cheering a truncated calendar.

"It's been quite a horrible experience," said Stefano Tonchi, editor of The New York Times' T magazine, as he filed into Dolce & Gabbana on a rain-soaked Thursday. "I think Italy has a lot to offer. It's suicide for Italian fashion."

With most shows by major designers packed into four days — some off-calendar, often scheduled 45 minutes apart — it meant early mornings, late nights and long waits for shows to start — let alone time to enjoy la dolce vita.

"I think it has been a very bad week for those of us who love fashion," said Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, called the grueling schedule "catastrophic. There's been no time to digest what we see, no time to live the Italian way, which is so graceful and welcoming. I've not been into a shop or into a restaurant."

Many editors noted up-and-coming designers ended up getting short shrift, with Tonchi lamenting that some shows on Tuesday evening played to half-empty venues. "The small names got squeezed. I though it was quite sad," he said.

Menkes suggested organizers consider an opening day devoted to Italian fashion companies, which are unique in that so many are family owned and offer style propositions unique from "the big brands."

"Milan is a major fashion city. To try and cram it into four days is absurd," agreed Robin Givhan, fashion editor of the Washington Post. "Would five days really kill people?"

Givhan said the packed schedule forced her to skip some shows, including Emporio Armani on Wednesday, in order to give her time to file her stories and choose photos.

"Young designers in Milan are very punished by this schedule," said Virginie Mouzat, fashion editor at French daily Le Figaro. "It's crazy. You're running every second. I have to do everything so quickly, I fear the quality suffers."Hilary Alexander, fashion editor of London's Daily Telegraph, said: "We've got to stop this fashion selfishness where every designer seems to feel that they are the only show on the calendar. You know it may be their only show to them, but it's not to us....It's insensitive, it's selfish and I don't think it's doing the industry any good. There's going to come a point where it's all going to fall apart and people are just not going to want to come because it's just too stressful."

She said Milan should learn from London, which has made more of an effort to concentrate venues within a reasonable distance. "This is absolutely frightful," she said of Milan.

Meanwhile, many editors cheered the lickety-split fashion parade.

"Fabulous," said Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue, citing the cost-saving benefits of a briefer stay in Milan given the strong euro. "The dollar being the way it is, I hope the week stays like this. I don't care how late the shows are."

"I love it," added Hal Rubenstein, fashion director at In Style magazine. "Frankly, if I can get out of here in four days, I'm happy."

His one gripe was the delays. "I do think that scheduling shows 45 minutes apart is ludicrous. You know it's never going to happen," he said.

Joe Zee, creative director of Elle, also applauded a shorter Milan week. "I like anything sort of intense and packed in because I think you can just speed through it, get on auto pilot and have it done and I love that."

But even he acknowledges the delays can make planning a real challenge.

"You're sort of left in this weird holding phase of, 'Well am I really late for that or has it not even started yet?'," he said.

Milan Fashion Week, which ends its official seven-day run today featured 233 collections — 96 shows for 90 brands, 95 presentations and 53 lines showing by appointment.

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