NO SLOWDOWN HERE: DESIGNERS JAM PARIS RTW SHOW SCHEDULE
Byline: Robert Murphy / With contributions from Alison Beckner
PARIS — Recession, what recession?
When it comes to the Paris ready-to-wear schedule, it’s a feast, not a famine. With more top-shelf designers joining the show calendar here this October, the Chambre Syndicale is preparing to revisit the logistics of fashion week — and perhaps even paste a few days onto the schedule as early as next March.
A spokeswoman for Alexander McQueen confirmed that the London-based designer would bring his signature collection to the City of Light this fall. Helmut Lang and Stella McCartney have already said they will show here. And Hussein Chalayan is expected to jam his show into the already tight Paris schedule, running from Oct. 12-20 and featuring more than 150 collections.
According to sources, the cost of mounting a runway show in Paris would range from a minimum of $20,000 up to $650,000.
This infusion of shows has made an overhaul of the Paris calendar imperative, said Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, French fashion’s governing body and organizer of the Paris season.
“There is no easy solution,” he said. “This season [spring-summer 2002] will be difficult for everyone. Paris is already crowded and it’s getting more crowded.”
Grumbach said he is negotiating with his Italian counterpart, Mario Boselli, to extend the Paris fashion schedule and shave a couple of days from Milan’s.
“It is impossible to ask editors and buyers to stay such a long time in Milan — 11 days — and then come to Paris for seven or eight,” said Grumbach. “In the current calendar, there is too much time allocated to Milan and not enough to Paris.”
Grumbach hopes to iron out the situation as early as next March. In the meantime, he said Paris’s schedule will be reconfigured slightly.
The final schedule has not been announced, but Grumbach indicated that Friday Oct. 12, the first official day on the calendar — a day after the close of the Milan season on Wednesday — will now be a day of serious shows. In the past, there have been few major shows on Friday.
The headline acts on Friday are expected to include Loewe, Chalayan and Richard Edwards.
Grumbach also hopes to buy time on the second Saturday, Oct. 20, by adding important shows, too. Typically, most editors and retailers skip out a day early. But Grumbach doesn’t expect a seamless season. He said October’s logjam would most likely breed longer-than-usual waits for shows to start. Shows in Paris often start late, by up to an hour.
“There may be some additional tardiness this year,” said Grumbach. “There may be a problem getting models — and editors and buyers — from one show to the next. I’m sure there will be some hitches this year. We’re going to do our best.”
If Grumbach manages to extend the schedule next season, he would satisfy many editors and buyers who truck to as many as 10 shows a day, starting early in the morning and ending late at night.
“The only solution to this situation, which is getting worse, is to overhaul the schedule,” said Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “The days are too long and there is not enough time to do the work we need to do.”
One of the biggest problems the tight schedule presents is limited coverage of young, independent designers. “I’d like to have the time to devote to young, interesting talent, but I don’t,” said Kaner.
Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, said: “I’m worried for the smaller designers. I think it’s tragic that many editors will not get to see these people. They are the future of fashion. They are very important. And every season it is getting harder and harder to get to their shows.”
“It’s physically impossible to get to everything,” added Cathy Hoyrn, fashion critic of the New York Times. “It’s been very difficult to see the things we need to see. We had to make choices. This season, we’ll have to make more choices.”
Marie-Claire Pauwels, editorial director at Madame Figaro, said that adding a day or two onto the schedule might be the best solution.
Kuki de Salvertes, who runs Totem, a public relations firm that represents Olivier Theyskens, Veronique Branquinho, Bernhard Willhelm and AF Vandevorst, among others, complained that the arrival of new big-money names on the Paris scene will heighten the hurdles young designers have to jump.
“With the empires of LVMH and Gucci taking up so much of the fashion schedule, where do the younger designers fit in?” de Salvertes asked. “Certainly, the Chambre has to privilege the big-money names, but it sure complicates our life. Young designers get pushed into time slots that aren’t good and consequently it’s hard to get the right people to come.”
Guillaume Chaillet, who runs Pressing, a public relations firm with clients ranging from Jurgi Persoons and Gilles Dufour to Alexandre Matthieu and Cacharel, said he is bracing for a nightmare season. “It’s a very difficult task to get together a show, to find the right place,” said Chaillet. “This season will be like walking through a swamp: every step will be difficult.”
Smaller designers said they were concerned they might be forgotten if the calendar situation was not resolved.
“Why have a show if we can’t get people to come?” asked Alexandre Morgado of Alexandre Matthieu. “This season, we have to be exactly in the right venue, at the right time. It’s a little stressful.”
Added Filip Arickx of the Belgian design firm AF Vandevorst, “It’s a question of the independents versus the conglomerates. There’s nothing we can do against their power.
For his part, Grumbach said he’s intent on protecting smaller designers’ interests, too.
“We’re being very careful not to smash anyone,” he said. “But you can never make everyone happy all of the time. But the fact that everyone is now descending on Paris to show is great. It can be complicated, but great. Paris is the center of fashion. We’re working to find a way to make the situation good for everyone.”