Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Battle for SS13 Fashion Week - Clashing Schedules and Ignored Letters

[Image via Google, not attributed to any photographer].

You may have heard about the rumblings of discontent surrounding next September's Fashion Week, where the Spring/Summer 2013 collections will be shown, as there are due to be significant clashes between the core four cities of London, Milan, New York and Paris. In case you've got a little lost on the current situation, here's how things are looking at the moment.

The difficulties have arisen due to Milan and Paris going against a pre-arranged schedule that has served the industry since 2008, which means that people attending the shows and meeting designers will now be left torn between which country to pick. Irritatingly, Milan will now run parallel to two days of New York and a staggering four days of London (that's pretty big, considering the entire length of LFW is five days for womenswear and one for menswear). We're looking at a schedule which shapes up to be as follows:

New York (Mercedes Benz) Fashion Week, organised by the Council of Fashion Designers of America: 13th September
Milan Fashion Week, organised by rhe Camera Nazionale della Moda: 19th September
London Fashion Week, organised by the British Fashion Council: 21st September
Paris Fashion Week, organised by the Chambre Syndicale: 25th September.

In light of the situation, Diane von Furstenberg (a.k.a President of the CFDA) and Harold Tillman (Chairman of the BFC) wrote a polite but firm letter to the other bigwigs, the Camera Nazionale della Moda of Milan and the Chambre Syndicale of Paris, reminding them that everything has gone swimmingly before, so if it ain't broke then don't try and fix it. Their argument was that the pre-existing agreement worked well, giving every fashion capital 'its own slot whist respecting each of the other's places on the calendar', and they claimed that the CNM was wrong to assume that those dates would only be used for three years. Furthermore, to jeopardise the success of each other's Fashion Weeks undermines 'the delicate balance that has worked so effectively' and that they need to think about 'the greater good of the industry'. It's a very persuasive and sensible statement, and one which focuses on the fairness and compromise that all of the cities had to make in order to develop a schedule which worked for everyone.

So what was the verdict from the CNM and the CS? Well, the head of Milan's CNM petulantly replied, 'Let the best one win,' which hardly helped matters. Paris has been less intrusive to the scheduling and less vocal, whereas Milan has continued to stand firm with its decision of double overlapping. British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman was interviewed about the fiasco and staunchly defended London Fashion Week for being 'one of the biggest fashion capitals in the world' and suggested that many would prefer to see the shows here over a trip to Italy. Meanwhile the Telegraph newspaper pointed out the difficult logistics for designers such as Christopher Kane, who has his own brand of clothing at LFW and an ever-popular show in Milan with his Versus line for Versace. He must be tearing his hair out at the thought of even more stress during an already tense part of the year as a key industry player.

I think the real problem lies in Milan's bullishness regarding the whole situation. There seems to be no room for compromise, which is strange considering their 2008 agreement with the other cities did last three whole years. I don't understand why it is so important for them to choose the week of the 19th, and why they want to jeopardise the potential of their homegrown talent. If buyers and journalists are forced to choose, there will always be losers, and they will be the designers, who have invested so much time, creativity and money into the shows. Strangely the CNM has stated that all levels in the designer hierarchy 'unanimously agreed on the schedule', which shows 'Italian pride' - is that pride really worth the anger of the three other giants in the fashion calendar? I'm sure that, were the clash of dates to mean that Milanese fashion brands failed due to lack of interest, they would not be so keen to boast of Italian pride. The industry needs to remember that co-operation and compromise are not dirty words, and there can be a way of keeping everyone happy without all of this mess.


In mid-January it emerged that London and New York were the ones to back down. The new schedule looks like this:
New York (Mercedes Benz) Fashion Week: 6th - 13th September 2012.
London Fashion Week: 14th - 18th September 2012 (though from June 2012 there will be a separate Menswear event, as opposed to just one day, so we can expect this to follow suit for the S/S 2013 season as well).
Milan Fashion Week: 18th - 25th September 2012.
Paris Fashion Week: 25th September - 2nd October 2012.

Personally, although I'm annoyed that New York and London had to be the ones to back down, I am now not-so-secretly thrilled that my friend's wedding no longer clashes with Fashion Week here in the UK, so I didn't spend the entire wedding reception checking Twitter for updates and wondering if I could sneakily blog from my phone. Yes, fashion news addiction is a powerful and drug-like thing...

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