ROWLEY, GEORGE IN STANDOFF OVER SHOW TIME CONFLICT
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — On Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m., it’ll be George vs. Rowley.
No, it’s not the bantamweight boxing championship. Rather, it’s a dilemma in the New York fashion show schedule, where Cynthia Rowley appears to have moved into the 5 p.m. slot occupied by Jennifer George.
Neither George nor Rowley are backing down; both refuse to move into the available 6 p.m. slot, and now it has become a test of wills.
In August, George submitted her form to the 7th on Sixth/CFDA sponsors saying that her first choice was 5 p.m. on Nov. 5. At the same time, Rowley submitted her form saying her first choice was 6 p.m. on Nov. 5.
But then things changed.
According to Rowley, her company faxed a letter on Sept. 5 to Ruth Finley, executive director of the Fashion Calendar, saying that the firm’s first choice was Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Chelsea Piers, if Anna Sui decided to show in the Gallery at 8 p.m. and if Michael Kors showed at 4 p.m. The fax then says, “If Anna Sui decides to show in the Gallery at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 5, then we would like to show at 5 p.m. in the Pier. If neither of these scenarios work out, we would like to show on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. in the Soundstage.”
Rowley followed up with a second fax on Sept. 12 saying, “I would like to confirm that we will be showing Cynthia Rowley’s spring ’97 collection on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. As soon as I have the venue, I will contact you immediately. Please call me if you have any questions or concerns or there are any conflicts with this time.”
According to Rowley, nobody contacted her about it, and she assumed everything was fine, so she booked an off-site location at 511 West 25th Street, two blocks from the pier.
“I don’t recall getting them [Rowley’s faxes],” Finley told WWD, noting that she keeps track of all the faxes and letters that come into her office. “They’re not here.”
Although George and Rowley are friends, a war has broken out between the two camps, and no one seems willing to switch times.
One of the reasons Rowley moved to 5 p.m. was a change in Sui’s schedule. Last month, Sui and Susan Lazar switched times, and now Sui is showing at 7 p.m. and Lazar at 8 p.m.
Sources said that Rowley didn’t want to show right before Sui — both shows are usually media happenings — and Rowley was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to get the best models because Sui usually books them for several hours. Meanwhile, it was learned that Sui has requested that her models show up at 4 p.m., so nobody at that time or beyond could use them anyway.
The reason George is sticking with 5 p.m. is that she follows Michael Kors, who has the 4 p.m. time slot, and they’re both showing at the Chelsea Piers and sell to many of the same stores. She’s afraid that if she switched to 6 p.m. and followed Rowley — who’s run late before (her last show started 45 minutes behind schedule) — retailers and press would move straight from Rowley to Sui, bypassing her show.
George said she doesn’t want to be compromised.
“I submitted my time to the Fashion Calendar and the CFDA,” said George. “Basically, I think it’s an excellent time slot. We were confirmed. I’m not inflexible, but I’m not going to be bullied into switching into a time slot. I’m going to fall between the cracks, and it’s a great collection.
“If we have to split the house, we’ll split the house,” continued George. “I played by the rules. I want to support the CFDA. I don’t want to feel that I have to back down to someone’s whim. It’s more principle.”
George said the whole situation feels like a high school spat. “I’m just trying to get the clothing done. I feel as if at this point, I will not be compromised into a lesser time slot. Why should I have to pay the price because she [Rowley] wants to switch her time?
“If my only option is to show at 6 p.m., I won’t show at all. If I sense that this [sharing the 5 p.m.] time slot will be very detrimental, I will not show at 6 p.m.” Instead, she’ll come up with another type of presentation, she said.
Another reason George won’t change her time is she doesn’t want to set a precedent. “If you set this as precedent, it’ll keep happening. Something’s got to change in how times are doled out and how it’s orchestrated. It’s not about me being a prima donna. It’s about being principled and doing what’s right.”
Meanwhile, Rowley has her own explanation about what happened.
“I’m up in arms,” said Rowley. “I did not steal her time. I can explain what I think has been the problem.”
Rowley claims that Finley didn’t coordinate with the CFDA, and Rowley was sending faxes to Finley. “We faxed them the whole package,” said Rowley. She said Finley was off in Milan for a few weeks during September.
“We have already printed invitations [saying 5 p.m.]. We’ve been confirmed since Sept. 12,” said Rowley, referring to her fax to Finley. “No one called us back,” she said.
“It has nothing to do with Jennifer and me,” said Rowley. “It’s between the CFDA and Ruth Finley, who was away in Milan. Bruce [Ravin from the CFDA] wasn’t checking Ruth’s faxes. Somebody should put their foot down and get one person to coordinate show times.”
Rowley admitted that she originally put down her dream times as 6 p.m. on Nov. 5, Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, but “then within the next few weeks, we clarified it in the fax. It’s very clear we were acting very professionally; I had no idea Jennifer George was showing then.”
Rowley said she’s trying to coordinate models with her booker and realizes that Sui will use a lot of them. “I’m trying to coordinate. I have a better chance to coordinate it at 5 p.m. than 6 p.m. For me, I have no choice. I’ve already printed the invitations.”
The George people charge that Rowley couldn’t have printed the invitations because she only decided upon her venue late last week. In addition, the George execs say that they don’t believe that Rowley faxed Finley’s offices, countering that “anybody can stamp ‘Faxed,’ on memos” to show that something was sent.
“The whole problem is with 7th on Sixth not confirming with the Fashion Calendar and Ruth being away for several weeks in the heart of scheduling,” said Rowley. “I have all my documentation trying to explain our point of view. I would never muscle Jennifer.”
Fern Mallis, executive director of the CFDA, explained, “We always send out a form for people to request their time slots at a venue where we’re producing. Jennifer requested 5 p.m., and Cynthia Rowley 6 p.m.” If designers aren’t showing with 7th on Sixth, they coordinate with the Fashion Calendar, and then CFDA and Fashion Calendar work together.
“We work very hard to encourage people not to go up against each other,” said Mallis. “Some people are being very belligerent. We try so hard to accommodate everybody.”
Meanwhile, the new Fashion Calendar came out Thursday; only George’s 5 p.m. show is listed.