Byline: Godfrey Deeny

PARIS — The French fashion press has thrown down the gauntlet before the Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body. Tired of sitting through scores of late-starting runway shows, a pack of top fashion editors has warned the Chambre that they will walk out of the first show this season that fails to begin within 30 minutes of its scheduled time. The rebellion was sparked by Marie Claire editor Elisabeth Bernigaud, and includes Joan Juliet Buck, editor of French Vogue, Janet Samet and Frederique Mory of Le Figaro and Douce de India, fashion and beauty editor of French Elle. “We are fed up being exhausted covering shows and at the mercy of a hairstylist or some young model [whose tardiness delays a show]. We want designers to realize that our time is precious, too,” said Samet. Samet said the editors and their assistants fully intend to carry out their walkout threat at any show which starts late. “We are not aiming to hurt any designer,” she said. “We love fashion. But we’ll give everyone half an hour, and then maybe a grace period of 10 minutes. But after that, we walk!”
Last November, the protest group met Denise Dubois, the Chambre spokeswoman who is also responsible for scheduling the Paris season, to officially inform the organization of their complaints. They then sent the Chambre a list of grievances, and this week they have been trying to round up supporters in Milan.
The editors are demanding an end to late-starting shows, ill-mannered security personnel at show entrances, the overbooking of models and an overcrowded show schedule.
Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of International Herald Tribune, declined to ink the walkout pact. But Vogue America’s editor Anna Wintour said, “We support the idea,” although she was unsure whether her magazine would actually join the protest.
Buck said she’d approached a number of retailers about joining a walkout and got some expressions of support.
This season, a record 88 shows are on the Paris calendar starting March 13, not including private by-appointment showings. “I calculated that one day last season we spent seven hours waiting and three hours actually looking at frocks. That is not possible,” said Buck, who emphasized that the threatened walkout was not directed at any designer or house. Bernigaud added that journalists are fed up with shows being held up by tardy models. “It should be forbidden to book models for back-to-back shows. That inevitably leads to bad holdups. Another problem is that shows are staged all over Paris, which means that once you get seated, some PR woman tells us we have to wait for Madame somebody, and that means another wait,” she complained. Rough security personnel were another problem underlined by Bernigaud. “Some of these fellows are very badly mannered. Douce was practically boxed at one show last season,” she said. Chambre president Jacques Mouclier argued that the organization had no choice but to pack many shows into each day. “What do they propose? That we ask people to stay in Paris longer? It’s a real dilemma we face every season. Our aim is to maximize the number of collections in a minimum of time,” said Mouclier. Mouclier added that he was composing a letter to be sent to all houses before the season starts, warning them that 30 minutes is the maximum permissible delay in starting shows. “Anything else is unacceptable, as is any rough behavior by security men,” he said.