MUGLER MODEL GAMBIT SHREDS PARIS RTW SLATE; MIFFS OZBEK

Byline: William Middleton and Godfrey Deeny, with James Fallon in London

PARIS — A stealth attack by Thierry Mugler on the upcoming ready-to-wear show schedule has Paris in an uproar and at least one designer in a huge bind.
Mugler has quietly added an unscheduled, private show at 4 p.m. on March 16 and booked more than 50 girls for that entire day — virtually cornering the market in top models. His officially scheduled showtime is at 8:30 that evening.
The Mugler move has enraged some designers, who are suddenly finding themselves almost girlless. Houses showing that day include Chloe, Mariot Chanet, Yohji Yamamoto, Popy Moreni and Anne Demeulemeester.
But the house most threatened is Rifat Ozbek, which has long been officially scheduled to show at 4 p.m. — the exact time of Mugler’s newly added show.
Cindy White, Ozbek’s sales director, said the house first discovered the schedule clash two days ago when she tried to confirm the options she had placed on 25 models. None were available because they’d all been booked by Mugler — including Naomi Campbell, who has done every Ozbek show since she was 15 years old.
“We don’t have a problem with Thierry Mugler, but we do have a problem with the Chambre Syndicale,” White snapped Thursday. “It didn’t do its job, which is to make it possible for us to show our collection in the best way possible.”
The Chambre, which organizes the Paris rtw week, tried to play down any conflict.
“We already have enough problems with schedules and locations that I refuse to be bothered by details of models and support staffs,” said Jacques Mouclier, Chambre president, disclaiming any responsibility for the clash.
Mouclier said he was unaware of Mugler’s off-schedule show. But several houses insisted that Chambre spokeswoman Denise DuBois had informed them earlier this week of Mugler’s plans.
“If this is true, then it’s a scandal,” said Irene Silvani, image director for Yamamoto, when first informed of the conflict. “Then again, Thierry was never known for his sense of tact.”
“It’s truly disgraceful,” said Christine Blanc, spokeswoman for Popy Moreni. “You can’t jump in at the same time as another designer, and try to take over their spot on the calendar.”
At the Chambre Thursday, DuBois refused to say when she was informed of the earlier Mugler show, but said the addition was irrelevant.
She claimed that Ozbek shouldn’t have found it surprising that Mugler would monopolize most of the top models earlier in the day for his 8:30 show, referring to Mugler’s well-known reputation for taking hours to prepare.
“Ozbek should have known from the beginning that it would be impossible to use the same models,” she charged.
“How are we supposed to know what is going on in another atelier in Paris? It’s ridiculous,” Ozbek’s White riposted. “We pay [the Chambre] a large fee to give us the freedom to show our collection in the best way. But we need information to work with and we weren’t given it.”
Sylvie Elles, communications director for Thierry Mugler, said “Everyone knows in this business that when Mugler has a show, you don’t schedule yours two hours before.”
But Ozbek’s show was officially scheduled 4 1/2 hours before Mugler’s official time slot, and models should have been able to do both — had Mugler not gobbled them up for his earlier show.
Yet modeling agencies and the house of Mugler are apparently moving to accommodate at least two other houses by allowing some girls Mugler booked to start at 9 a.m. to start instead after they do Chloe at 10 a.m. and Yohji Yamamoto at 1 p.m.
“We will have no problem,” said a Chloe spokeswoman, after checking with model agencies Thursday.
Ozbek was wary of showing on the same day as Mugler from the outset. Earlier this year, the designer asked the Chambre to reschedule his show because he felt Mugler was bound to dominate the next day’s press coverage. The Chambre proposed a time slot the morning before.
But Ozbek prefers to show late in the day, and so decided to keep his March 16 date.
“That would have been the perfect time for Denise DuBois to warn us that it might be in our best interests to go the day before,” White said, referring to those talks with the Chambre. “If she had indicated how things have turned out, we would have moved to the earlier time in a shot.”
White charged that DuBois didn’t return repeated calls from Ozbek Wednesday about the scheduling conflict but instead replied by fax yesterday, bluntly stating that it was not the Chambre Syndicale’s job to concern itself with the hiring of models.
“It’s as if Denise DuBois is saying, “I don’t want to deal with this English designer”,” White said.