SUMMER IN THE CITY: NY’S SPRING 2002 SHOWS TO KICK OFF EVEN EARLIER
Byline: Leonard McCants / With contributions from Eric Wilson / David Moin
NEW YORK — Designers showing in New York for the spring 2002 season may have to forego their Labor Day holiday and most of their August vacations if a proposed show schedule becomes reality.
Officials at 7th on Sixth have blocked off Sept. 6-14 for a combined men’s and women’s fashion week — about 10 days earlier than last year’s spring collections, confirmed executive director Fern Mallis.
The main reason for the stepped-up schedule is the earlier dates for the European shows and the placement of the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, which starts the evening of the Sept. 17, and Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Sept. 26, Mallis said.
“I’m not going to step on London’s dates and Rosh Hashanah in a Jewish city like New York,” she said. “That’s the reality.”
A Sept. 6 start date for the American collections has bewildered some retailers and designers — still reeling from New York’s move to the head of the runway pack two years ago.
“That’s really terrible,” said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction for Bloomingdale’s. “First of all, we retailers need to be on the selling floor after Labor Day for a 10-day period. We need to be selling merchandise, talking to customers and running the stores. It’s a real concern. It would be a disaster. I still haven’t seen deliveries improving, even with earlier dates.”
Added Donna Karan, “I think that it’s physically impossible. I’m not in favor of it,” she said after her fall show on Friday. “Sept. 6 is unconscionable. That’s Labor Day. On the other hand, I would be happy to show fall that time when it’s fall at retail.”
The momentum for earlier runway shows for New York got under way in June 1998, when Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein said they would stage their spring 1999 shows in mid-September, six weeks ahead of New York’s usual time slot. Klein and Lang cited a number of reasons for their decisions, including a creative edge, a boost to New York’s status as a fashion capital and a chance to grab retail dollars first.
Under pressure from Lang and Klein’s early show dates and other designers like Donna Karan who joined them, 7th on Sixth decided in November 1998 to make the New York collections first, and kicked off the semiannual fashion marathon in February 1999.
But even after five seasons of having New York collections first on the fashion calendar, some designers still complain that the shortened schedule does not allow them enough time to ship one collection and design the next. This is especially true, they said, in the truncated period between the spring shows in September and the fall collections in February.
Josh Patner and Bryan Bradley, the design duo behind Tuleh, experienced that problem for their fall 2001 collection. They decided to postpone this season’s presentation because they were too busy producing and shipping their spring collection to properly design and make the fall collection in time for fashion week. Instead, they will present the collection at the Harry Winston jewelry salon on March 29.
“The American schedule is really prohibitive for the growth of American design,” Patner said just after announcing the postponement of their fall collection earlier this month. “But it’s not up to me to say what they should do. I say only what I should do.”
Retailers said they can understand that point of view.
“I don’t think going earlier helps Americans,” said Ed Burstell, vice president and general merchandise manager of Henri Bendel. “I think they are under a time constraint that is really, really tight.”
“I think [retailers] are more cautious with their budgets because they don’t have an overview at that point. If Americans are the first ones out of the box, there is a possibility that the purchases could suffer.”
Other designers are taking a laissez-faire attitude about something with which they have little control.
“If they change the dates, we’ll work with that,” said Kimberly Flaster, public relations director at Carolina Herrera. “It’s really only a week difference. But it really would put a crook in Labor Day.”
Others noted that there is already little relaxation time in fashion now. Once the fall shows are over, they must fly to Europe to select fabrics for the spring collection.
“I don’t think it’s that terrible because we’re already designing spring,” said Leah Forrester, public relations and image director for Diane Von Furstenberg. “If it were the fall shows, it would be horrible. For us, summer seems like such a quiet time in fashion maybe because people are traveling and also because there is such a crunch between September and February.”
In anticipation of grumbling among members of the fashion community, Mallis said moving the dates to New York’s old placement at the end of October would be “a piece of cake.”
“But we can’t have fractured weeks like we did before,” she added. “And what about the people who have dual collections? It’s not fair to them. But if [the major designers] all agree to [a later date] then the other guys will follow suit.”