MILAN — This season, you can count the number of American buyers here on one hand — literally. Bloomingdale’s, Janet Brown, Savannah and Maxfield were the only stores that crossed the Atlantic, while most other department and specialty stores opted to stay home in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks.
“It’s my job,” said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice-president and fashion director at Bloomingdale’s from the front row at Krizia. “I came during Desert Storm, so I decided to come now. The vendors have been extremely gracious and happy to see me here — and I might even get a few exclusives this time.”
Brown, who has a boutique in Port Washington, N.Y., said she was “treated like royalty” at showrooms across the city. “I feel like I’ve done the right thing. The early bird will have more worms than any buyers sitting back home in the nest,” said Brown who since day one was vocal about the importance of supporting the European designers and manufacturers and returning to business as usual.
Maxfield’s Tommy Perse said on his way out of the Jil Sander show Sunday night that he couldn’t imagine staying home. “We have a small business and we’re very hands-on,” he said. “We’ve been coming for 30 years, and that’s what we do.”
Preparing to leave for Europe, Savannah owner Susan Stone told WWD: “I can’t imagine how anyone could go on with our business without going to Europe.”
Editors, many of whom attended the shows, said they were disappointed that most buyers didn’t do the same. “I think it’s really a shame,” said Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue. “I know there are budget concerns and travel restrictions, but not to have representation at such a difficult time for retail is unforgivable. All the press are here.”
Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, said she values the dialogue between editors and retailers that emerges during the show season, but stopped short of criticizing them. “I said to my staff, ‘The decision is yours.’ This has to be an individual choice.”
Designers, meanwhile, have gone out of their way to accommodate stay-at-home retailers. As reported, most Italian and French companies have planned to take their collections to New York for viewing and sales after the shows. Over the weekend, Gianfranco Ferre said he would post his collection on-line on his website and host a showroom presentation during market week in New York.
There’s also been a fair amount of anxiety over whether or not Japanese buyers would travel to Europe. But among the stores with representatives already in attendance are Isetan, Barneys Japan, Sebu and Joyce.