Remember the 40-hour work week? Even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard of it. Much of the employed world has left it far behind, and much of the world’s employed now take an approach somewhere between philosophical and pragmatic — whatever it takes to get the job done; constant connectivity has won; lucky to have a job.
All of the above duly considered and acknowledged as legitimate, fashion nevertheless seems extreme in its can-do/will-do gusto. Case in point: this Sunday’s official lineup of CFDA-sanctioned presentations and shows. The Fashion Calendar lists three: Lorod, from 2 to 3 p.m.; Victor Glemaud, from 4 to 6 p.m., and Alexander Wang, at 8 p.m.
In the big picture of a world in turmoil, a random working Sunday may seem a small matter, and as a societal class, show-going fashion employees make poor victims. But given the reality of this industry — the 24/7 relentlessness of the primary show schedule; the parameters of this endless, whatever-it-is-we’re-in-now season that began in early May and will carry on at least through July couture week, encompassing clothes characterized as fall, resort/cruise and spring — was it essential for the CFDA to add a summer Sunday to the schedule? A perusal of the upcoming week’s calendar suggests not. From June 3 through June 8, it lists 22 events, including the CFDA Awards on Monday night and the Saint Laurent resort show on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Most other listings are by-appointment line openings, with Tuesday’s seven events making it the busiest day, closing with Rosie Assoulin from 4 to 6. Tuesday night and Thursday night are free, as is the 8 p.m., pre-Saint Laurent slot on Wednesday.
Lots of room, so why Sunday? The CFDA is hardly transparent on the topic. The organization has an extremely difficult, unenviable job in creating a workable show schedule; its membership is huge, diverse and opinionated. But decisions made impact others beyond that membership. In trying to find out who first had the Sunday idea and how it was vetted pre-adoption, I failed. To the first question, there are four logical possibilities: the three scheduled brands and the CFDA. Victor Glemaud didn’t make the proposal, and it’s safe to assume nor did Lorod, whose designers Lauren Rodriguez and Michael Freels didn’t respond to several interview requests.
Glemaud has only shown on the resort schedule. In January, when he read about this show-spring-in-June initiative, he expressed interest immediately. A number of considerations played into his decision to set his first formal presentation for Sunday. “The majority of my show is sponsored, luckily,” Glemaud said, noting his venue, the Stephan Weiss Studios, and Dirty Lemon, which is supplying water. “And from stylists to hair and makeup, a lot of people are helping me out. It was easier for me to do it on that day. Also, from a financial standpoint, potential investors can attend that day.” Still, Glemaud added that, by the time he had access to the show schedule, “some tentpole slots were taken.…I can’t dictate when and how I show as other people can.”
That leaves Wang and the CFDA. Back in January, Wang announced his decision to shift to June/December for the major seasons, a notion the CFDA embraced. “The idea is, could there be a core group of brands that sat well together and combined their interests to do something during pre-collections?” CFDA president and chief executive officer Steven Kolb said at the time. While he mentioned no names, it was understood that Altuzarra, Sies Marjan, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler were among those considered, with Wang leading the charge.
None of those brands joined on for the initial experiment. However, in addition to Wang, Narciso Rodriguez, Assoulin, Lorod and Maggie Marilyn will show spring, with other participants keeping with resort. Still, sometimes, seismic shifts happen in stages, and the concept could expand. Years ago, when Helmut Lang single-handedly changed the calendar by showing in New York before, rather than after, Europe, it took two seasons for all of New York to get on board. No one has looked back since.
But June isn’t the issue. We’re used to fashion openings that spread through the summer. Whether a particular show is called spring or resort, who cares? This is about making a previously unscheduled Sunday an official workday on quite short notice. And it’s not just about one day. Rather, it represents countless other Sundays and Saturdays and nights, including Friday nights, once sacrosanct, but now open for business. Nor is this just an American fashion issue. The couture runs through the Fourth of July. Yes, the couture’s French and the Fourth of July isn’t, but many Americans go. Yes, it a privilege, but a working one. And heck, we’re used to it.
That’s the point. We are so accustomed to showing up when told to show up (God forbid we might miss something!), that we don’t question the reasoning behind each call. Complaining among ourselves is different from forging serious dialogue with those making decisions about what was once considered our personal time. Much of that scheduling is essential — there’s no way to eliminate the weekends from spring and fall collection weeks, and couture is couture.
But, Glemaud’s particular situation notwithstanding, this Sunday rings particularly questionable. Post-Memorial Day, many people in this industry leave town for the weekend and return at some point on Sunday night. This is also an end-of-school-year weekend, when parents might want to oversee exam studying. It’s not a time when we typically check the work schedule before making post-Friday plans, so the surprise Sunday lineup left some potential showgoers with conflicts. But such particulars aside, what if you just planned to binge-watch TV or clean closets? That one feels compelled to justify not wanting to work on a previously unscheduled Sunday is absurd, particularly when the case for necessity hasn’t been made.
Three weeks ago, Kolb addressed the scheduling topic in a conversation with WWD’s Jessica Iredale. (He declined my request for a follow-up interview.) He noted the many complications and nuances of creating a workable schedule, and repeated the conclusion of the 2016 Boston Consulting Group study, now a tenet (official or otherwise) of the CFDA’s operational approach, that the June option is “based on this notion of ‘do what’s best for your brand.’ It’s what this is really about — doing what’s best for a brand. But we knew it wouldn’t be for [everyone],” he said.
Kolb would not speak specifically to the genesis of the Sunday-start idea nor to what degree audience concerns factored into the decision. Yet he spelled out a reality of the show experience today. “It’s really not about the buyer,” Kolb said. “It’s really about the press. And the investment in the marketing. And so, with great respect for traditional media — in some of these instances, do you need that kind of traditional media? I don’t know.”
Honest, if sobering. Kolb articulated a question that has been in the ether for some time. Yet it still didn’t explain the Sunday thing. Anecdotally, whom, regardless of age, cool factor or social media clout, have you ever heard say, “Gee, I’m dying to work more weekends!?”
Wang didn’t respond to an interview request, but Lisa Gersh, his brand’s ceo, did. Asked whose idea the Sunday start was, she punted. “I’m the ceo of the company. It’s not my primary responsibility to set the show schedule,” she said, while acknowledging the attractiveness of this particular opportunity: Showing on the eve of the CFDA Awards would allow the brand to capitalize on the presence of key out-of-towners in New York for the awards (whom, she didn’t specify), and it made sense for Wang to stage the week’s first big event, “because we kind of came up with this idea first.”
As for the hour, Wang is a long-time proponent of evening shows; creating a party atmosphere is part of his brand ethos. Yet Gersh said there were other considerations. “Our event is outdoors. We scheduled it to begin with the beautiful sunset we hope people will view, and also [to] not interfere with people’s activities, their daytime activities with their kids,” she said. “I raised two daughters in NYC…I’ve worked my entire adult life and their lives, and I’m profoundly aware of the demands a career places on other parts of people’s lives.
“We’re not showing earlier in the day. We’re showing Sunday at 8, so we feel like, and I hope you would agree with me, that that is quite a respectful time.”
Agree to disagree.
Alexander Wang will surely play to a full house on Sunday night, and a diverse one. He has the right to show whenever he chooses, as do all designers and brands. They should indeed do what’s best for their businesses. If, after spread-sheet-examination, past social-media tracking and good old soul-searching, brands determine that only a summer-Sunday showing will do, that’s their call. One hopes those decisions are driven at least as much by serious, thoughtful business evaluation as by whimsy. Whether the CFDA is obligated to officially sanction each brand’s individual choice is up to the organization’s management and membership. But we audience members are not potted plants. And, as Kolb wondered, the “traditional” among us may no longer tip the importance scale as prominently as we once did. Binge watching, anyone?