NEW YORK — Will Hurricane Isabel rain on Ralph’s parade? Will the storm dampen Donna’s spirits? Will Tommy have to withstand a torrent? With the biggest hurricane to threaten the Atlantic coast in four years swirling a few days offshore, designers planning Thursday evening or Friday runway shows have more to worry about than fittings and seat assignments.
According to the National Weather Service, Isabel was about 740 miles south-southeast of the North Carolina coast by 5 p.m. Monday. With maximum wind speeds of 125 miles per hour, the storm had slipped to Class Three status from its Class Five peak over the weekend, though officials warned that the storm could gain strength again. The damage associated with category three hurricanes typically includes large trees being blown down, the destruction of mobile homes and inland flooding. The last major storm to hit during fashion week was tropical storm Floyd, which rained on the finale of Bill Blass’ career and washed out the Thursday afternoon shows in 1999.
On Monday, organizers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week said they were keeping a close eye on the storm. “We’ve been through this before in our 10-year history, with Floyd and other intense weather conditions,” executive director Fern Mallis said through a spokeswoman. “We will take the necessary and appropriate measures to make sure that everything and everyone is safe and secure.”
Forecasters have said that the storm itself could reach the New York metropolitan area by late Thursday or early Friday. Among the major shows that could face disruption if a heavy storm hits the tents during that time are Tommy Hilfiger at 9 p.m. Thursday, Ralph Lauren at 9 a.m. Friday and Donna Karan at 3 p.m. Friday. A Lauren spokeswoman declined to comment.
“It’s something we’ll continue to monitor, but we’re moving forward full force with our show,” said a spokeswoman for Hilfiger.
At the offices of Donna Karan, a spokeswoman groaned when a reporter pointed out that Karan’s 3 p.m. Friday show could be among those disrupted if a heavy storm hits. Then she remembered the company’s lucky break at the time of Floyd.
“The last hurricane, we were putting up a tent in Central Park for DKNY’s 10th-year anniversary. We were putting it up the night the hurricane hit, and we thought that was it,” she said. But the next day, when the party was to be held, “It all passed through, and it was a gorgeous day,” she recalled. Asked whether the company hoped to dodge another meteorological bullet, she replied, “You’ve got it.”