War has broken out between Milan and New York — with London the first casualty — as the top fashion capitals clash over the dates of their rival style marathons, held back-to-back once every six months.
Twice a year, a global pack of fashion buyers, style gurus and journalists trek across the world to scout new seasonal styles, stopping for eight days in New York, five in London, seven in Milan and nine for the finale in Paris.
But the 29-day Fashion Week calendar for September 2012 has been jumbled up in an unseemly game of musical chairs — with Milan overlapping New York by a day, and running over the entire duration of London’s own fashion week.
The mix-up originated during the summer, when New York announced it was shifting its shows back by a week to avoid the Labor Day holiday weekend, which it says was harming business.
London duly slid its dates back to accommodate New York — but the dance ground to a halt in Milan, where the National Chamber of Italian Fashion flatly refused to budge. Shifting the shows by even a few days, it argued, would put too great a squeeze on the production schedule for Italian fashion houses, making it impossible to get their clothes into stores for the spring-summer season.
Only Paris, which wraps up the fashion marathon, is so far unaffected, with its dates following on from Milan. As things stand, the fashion pack will have to choose between the capitals, a headache for journalists and buyers — and an even bigger problem for models. For fashion houses, who invest heavily to showcase their collections to the style gurus, the prospect of sending out models to a half-empty room spells disaster.
In strict business terms, Milan weighs considerably more than London. So if next September’s shows go ahead according to the current calendar, observers believe the British capital may be the main loser, with buyers deserting its shows and heading straight to Milan.
Accusations have been flying back and forth, with New York and London blaming Milan. On Friday, the Italian chamber’s chairman, Mario Boselli, reiterated his stance — laying responsibility on the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council.
Slamming the New York and London Fashion Week organizers as “arrogant and aggressive,” he issued a written statement to flatly deny that Milan had put a spanner in the works.
“Such an accusation, besides showing an arrogant and aggressive attitude toward Milan, was supported by unfair arguments aimed at unilaterally imposing decisions that had not been agreed upon,” Boselli wrote.
Milan, he argued, had clearly informed the industry back in March 2010 of its dates for 2012: Sept. 19-25, “in line with the previous three years, since no different agreement had been made and no objection had been raised by anyone.”
He said that Milan was open to discussion for 2013 onward, but until then, buyers and journalists would just have to choose sides.
New York’s stance rests on a 2008 agreement between the four fashion capitals, under which its Fashion Week kicks off on the second Thursday of September, which this year falls later than usual in the month. But Milan and Paris both contend New York is twisting the facts, arguing that the three-year 2008 accord was not implicitly renewable.
New York organizers at the CFDA said they still hoped to find a solution that worked for the fashion industry as a whole.
“We are in continued communication with all cities and are working to figure something out that addresses the short term conflict and creates long term agreement,” Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s chief executive, said by e-mail on Friday.
How does he respond to Boselli’s charge of arrogance? “We have no hurt feelings,” Kolb said, adding that the CFDA is working to find a solution that meets all cities’ interests. “If Milan, New York and London show at the same time, we are all at risk.”