BRAZIL CHIMES IN ON DATE DEBATE
Byline: Michael Kepp
SAO PAULO, Brazil — The debate over timing for international fashion weeks has stretched to another quadrant of the globe.
In a parley here, representatives of the governing bodies that stage fashion weeks in Milan, London, Paris and New York discussed the timing and coordinating of the global show calendar, as well as the timing and growing importance of the Sao Paulo fashion week.
The talks took place during fashion week here, June 27 through today, and it marked the first time that reps of the bodies who put on these four fashion weeks had discussed the global show calendar together.
“There’s not a lot of communication among the organizers of the four main fashion weeks and this is the closest we’ve come to resembling an international summit of those fashion weeks,” Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, coordinator of the Mercedes-Benz fashion week in New York, told WWD before the debate. “We all came here at the invitation of the organizers of the Sao Paulo fashion week, who, in calling us here, have given their fashion week more exposure and credibility.”
Sniping over the international fashion calendar is nothing new. Ever since 1998, when Helmut Lang started a chain reaction — by showing before the Europeans in New York — that ultimately flipped the order of international fashion weeks, there has been tension shrouding the schedule.
In June 2000, organizers of the Milan and Paris fashion weeks signed a protocol agreement in an attempt to better time and coordinate their weeks. But that hasn’t ended the perennially contentious calendar debate.
Christiano Tagliabue, the marketing director of the Camera Della Moda Italiana, which organizes the Milan shows, said the group has already begun discussing timing and coordination issues with the British Fashion Council, organizer of the London fashion week.
Simon Ward, the deputy director of BFC, however, said that although the council was talking with its Paris and Milan counterparts about better timing and coordinating of fashion weeks, nothing had been made formal regarding the BFC entering the protocol agreement.
Francine Pairon, the communications director of the Institut Francais de la Mode, which organizes fashion week in Paris, said it is important to improve timing and coordination of the global show calendar to get more buyers and press to all four fashion weeks. But she pointed out that she hadn’t come to Sao Paulo to hash out the particulars.
Mallis agreed, saying that there “will be time for us to better coordinate the fashion week calendar schedules when there aren’t any microphones and journalists around.”
What doesn’t seem to be on the bargaining table is the order of the shows, especially since it’s not likely that the New York fashion week will relinquish the leadoff slot, even in favor of a rotating schedule where each fashion week takes turns at the top of the global show calendar.
Mallis, in an interview with WWD before the debate, said that “ever since the New York fashion show moved to the top of the calendar, it has helped U.S. designers make earlier deliveries and better plan production. So we intend to keep New York at the start.”
She added that “there will always be scheduling problems when you have four countries, filled with hundreds of creative individuals and egos, all striving for the same attention and business.”
Ward of the BFC told WWD after the debate that the calendar issues that need to be discussed “have more to do with working out more specific issues, like setting dates for the spring-summer fashion weeks, so that none of the four fall during a Jewish holiday.”
“Another issue was the need to work with designers so that there’s just the right temporal gap between where the big shows fall within each fashion week, so that the big shows aren’t too close together or too far apart,” he added. He said that doing so would make it easier for the press, buyers and even models, to travel to the shows.
He painted this scenario: If the big names fall at the end of the London fashion week, then the big shows for Milan, which follows right behind it, need to be in the middle of that fashion week and the big shows for Paris need to be at the beginning of that fashion week.
“We are trying to convince some of London’s top designers to put their shows at the end of the London fashion week,” Ward said. “What will convince them to do so is knowing that none of the main Milan shows start until the middle of its fashion week.”
Another issue is coordinating the four major weeks with those of other cities, if those other cities are to have a greater role in international fashion circles. For example, Sao Paulo fashion week currently conflicts with men’s fashion weeks in Milan (held at the end of June) and Paris (early July), forcing some buyers and press to choose between hemispheres. Ultimately, though, local organizers have to choose what’s right for their own industries, representatives said.
Paulo Borges, the main organizer of the Sao Paulo shows, said the dates of fashion week were chosen in relation to the local textile industry’s production dates.
“The designers who show their collections at our fashion week, unlike those at most other fashion weeks, work with local textile makers to create new materials,” said Borges “So, we have to take into account their production dates when setting our fashion week dates.”
Representatives of the four major fashion weeks agreed that the timing of the Sao Paulo fashion week was important because Brazil was becoming a more important stop on the global fashion calendar.
Mallis said at the debate that the Sao Paulo fashion week would continue to attract more international press and buyers because Brazilian fashion has a special style and point of view, along with an interesting use of textiles, sensuality and colors.
“The new stuff coming out of Brazil will attract buyers who, amid a proliferation of similar-looking global brands and identities, are always looking for new product,” she said.
Tagliabue agreed, saying that “Brazil has big designer talent and the more it promotes that talent, the more foreign buyers will come to look at it.”