FASHION’S DATE DEBATE RAGES

NEW YORK — As news of next season’s proposed extra-early Fashion Week made the rounds on Seventh Avenue, designers weren’t thrilled with the prospects of 7th on Sixth running Sept. 6 – 14, but they were generally resigned to its inevitability.
That’s because the alternative, having New York collections follow London, Milan and Paris again after shifting ahead of Europe five seasons ago, wasn’t attractive to most. Some seemed willing to try it, but others were dead set against bringing up the rear.
Calvin Klein said flatly, “I’m very clear that if the New York market decides to show later, then I will show in Europe. It is just ridiculous for me to be showing in Milan, three-to-four weeks earlier than in New York, which is the way I used to do it. The decision for me is that if New York changes, I’m going to just show in Europe, as I do with my men’s collection.”
The possibility of New York showing after Europe was brought up last week by 7th on Sixth executive director Fern Mallis as an option, but few people see it coming to fruition because that would again make Seventh Avenue an also-ran to Milan and Paris and would exacerbate production and delivery problems.
“The business of Labor Day is an unfortunate situation, because it is a holiday weekend and everyone likes a day off, but Labor Day is Sept. 3,” said Klein. “We have to decide — either we work on Labor Day weekend or on a Jewish holiday. From my point of view, it doesn’t matter.”
As reported, the main reason New York Fashion Week is planning its earliest showing since being put first on the calendar in September 1998 is that the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall on Sept. 17 and 26, respectively, which would be the preferred time to stage the spring presentations. London will have its shows during that period and Milan is scheduled to have its ready-to-wear shows Sept. 22 to Oct. 3, followed by Paris.
Klein did offer one solution, however, which could stir up another controversy.
“The other thing is if they shorten [Fashion Week] — 10 days, truthfully, is a lot. I don’t think anyone really cares about the men’s shows in New York,” Klein said. “They have been trying to capture the press that comes in for the women’s shows, but it extends the week, so maybe that’s a way of shortening the week.”
Klein was less concerned about working in August, when many in the industry take a long holiday.
“Whether we show early or late, it’s still the same amount of time to make the clothes,” he said. “People who can’t get it together, maybe they shouldn’t be doing runway shows. In truth, most designers think they never have enough time to make a collection, but there has to be a deadline. It does interfere with the summer, but this isn’t Europe, and even Europe works in the summer now.”
Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, said there were two sides to the story.
“I don’t mind them moving [the dates] up,” Kaner said. “But that’s when we’re getting all the merchandise into the stores. The buyers are very busy getting things into the store and there are a lot of events in-store,” that the buyers attend.
Mark Badgley said, “Sure, the early dates are a pain in the neck. The holiday weekend is gonesville, but we can’t see any way around it. The Jewish holidays fall at a difficult time in the calendar, but we’re not going back to showing after Europe.”
Badgley said he and partner James Mischka will have to commit to fabric earlier, making Premiere Vision more vital. He said the move to put New York ahead of Europe has improved the lot of American designers and has helped production planning, but getting the collection ready is increasingly challenging.
“It’s crazy,” said Cynthia Rowley. “Even this season there’s too much of a lag between New York and Europe. There should be a way for them to flow closer together. I don’t see a reason to go back to the old timing, but maybe we can create some sort of international forum, where designers from all countries show together.”
Bud Konheim, chief executive officer of Nicole Miller, said, “The issue for us is the earlier we get prepared for a season, get the retailers to order, get the goods into production and get it sent, the better it is all around.
“On the other hand, showing early leads to less spontaneity within our styling. There’s less time to see what’s selling in the previous season and less time to make corrections in fabric projections because of the early commitments.”
A veteran of negotiations and discussions over when New York show week should be, Konheim said “there is no perfect date,” and that Nicole Miller isn’t totally committed to the current schedule, although he likes New York coming first.
He said the timing of the Fashion Coterie trade show is important because of the many specialty store accounts serviced there. He also agreed with Donna Karan’s proposal for a consumer-oriented show at the beginning of a retail season, but wasn’t sure how it would work.
When she learned about the Labor Day week show plan, Karan called it “physically impossible,” and “unconscionable,” as reported, but said, “I would be happy to show fall that time when it’s fall at retail.”
Some were voicing the opinion that New York need not have an inferiority complex and should think about showing later in October, after Paris collections.
Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, said: “We think [the dates] are really early. In August, it’s so hard to get shoots done because all the models and photographers take the whole month off. It’s really a problem for us. We wish they’d reconsider going after Europe.”
She said she needs the time in September to get fashion shoots done.
“When we used to go to Europe and see the Gallianos and the Dolce & Gabbanas, then we’d come back to New York and it was a breath of reality. The contrast worked better for the New York Collections. They [the American designers] don’t need to worry, they’re all such good designers. But for magazines, it’s terrible. There’s just a short period of time to shoot before we go to Europe.”
Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s, said, “I would love the American designers to go back to their original time. We will leave plenty of money for them. We always do. By their going first, they didn’t look to anyone for inspiration.
“Now everyone knows that they can do it, so let’s go back to the original schedule. It works better for retailers with the time needed on the selling floor and time to travel. In the beginning of the season, you’re looking to do re-orders and you’ve go to be there to see what’s happening.”
Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, said, “I’m not happy. It’s way too early. We show so early as it is. The whole things just gets me crazy. I have a men’s Collection, a women’s Collection, a secondary line and now Louis Vuitton. It doesn’t seem like it’s helping anybody or helping clothing deliveries.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to showing after Milan. Going first didn’t help deliveries and doesn’t help the consumer. It confuses them. We’re shipping fall and showing spring. Those [extra] 10 days mean everything to us.”
Stephen L. Ruzow, chairman and ceo of Pegasus Apparel Group, said the advancing dates “make things much, much more difficult.”
Two of Pegasus’s brands — Miguel Adrover and Daryl K — do most or all of their sample production in Italy. Since Italy’s mills and factories shut down for the month of August, “that means that, in Daryl’s case, we would have to get our samples done, completely finished and shipped to Italy by mid-May” in order to have clothes to put on the runway in September. There is a bit more leeway for Adrover, who has his own sample room, but he’d still have to get his entire spring line completed by mid July.
“And if something goes wrong, forget it, there is absolutely no room for error,” said Ruzow.
Putting more pressure on the situation is the fact that designers won’t even see the spring 2002 fabrics until they go to Premiere Vision next month. That means there is a 10-week window for a designer like Daryl Kerrigan to choose and order fabrics, trim and buttons, make samples and have them produced.
“And some of the fabrics that you see at PV are 90-to-100 day delivery,” said Ruzow.
Francois Girbaud said he wasn’t pleased by the decision to move the show dates up since he considered the previous dates a little too early.
“This season it was hard, it was difficult to finalize everything,” he said. “It’s early in the season to show what we want to show.”
The designer said he was worried that the industry has become so intent on show production that people are losing sight of the most important element of the shows — the clothes themselves, which take time to prepare.
“The show has to be a tool, a help to give a vision about what the designer is doing,” Girbaud said. “Not just some kind of ceremony.”
Meanwhile, there’s no detente across the Atlantic, either.
Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, French fashion’s governing body, said New York’s date change would have no impact on Paris’s preference.
“In our case, the designers don’t want to show before early October,” he said. “Our members are very adamant about the fact that they can’t do it sooner.”
The Paris ready-to-wear shows for spring 2002 are scheduled for Oct. 6-13. Grumbach said the Chambre, which last year signed an accord with Italy’s governing body to ensure greater cooperation between Europe’s two main fashion capitals, said he plans to meet soon with Mario Boselli, president of Italy’s Chamber of Fashion, to better coordinate the next market.

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