In a manoeuvre that would have David Blaine scratching his head in wonder and admiration, the mandarins of the CFDA, Camera Nazionale and Chambre Syndicale (ruling bodies of NY, Milan and Paris fashion week respectively) have managed to make London disappear off the international catwalk schedule in September 2012.
I have been poring over a 2012 forward planner as well as a list of diary dates that the officials say were agreed back in 2008. The Americans maintain it was decided that, for the sake of their Labour Day holiday, (yes, you read it correctly ’holiday’: a truly exotic concept in this age of debt crisis and quantititive easing) they could start their fashion week on the second Thursday of September. In 2012 that’s the September 13th to the 19th. But Milan is insisting it runs from the 19th to the 25th so Paris can have their slot from the 25 – 3rd October.
Numbers bring a chick with dyscalculia like me out in hives. But it’s not hard to figure out that what was a four week schedule has shrunk to three. Clearly no one had a five year planner in that meeting back in 2008.
No doubt we will be bombarded with official statements over the next few months and the industry will again be caricatured as a bunch of divas because childish pronouncements such as [President of Milan Fashion Week] Mario Boselli’s 'let the best one win,' and [President of Paris Fashion Week] Didier Grumbach’s 'we already decided our dates several months ago and to want to change the system seems unrealistic,' don’t do any of us any favours.
But politics and power play aside, there is much at stake if we don’t all play nice. In financial terms alone, London is definitely the poor relation of the four fashion cities. We may have gained important ground recently thanks to the presence of big hitters such as Burberry and Tom Ford on our schedule. But if America and Milan decide to stand their ground, their mighty commercial clout will present the all-important editors and buyers with an impossible dilemma. With luck they will see that that is a short game and they stand to lose much in the long term.
A global fashion industry cannot operate without the creative and the commercial. In financial terms, London may be small fry, but London Fashion Week punches way above its weight creatively. In my very subjective opinion, the London schedule was rivalled only by Paris for inventive shows and inspiring ideas. With a few notable exceptions, Milan and NY are by comparison commercial rather than creative giants. Milan, Paris and NY are so ruled by big business that London is about the only place untested talent has a chance of making it to a catwalk in a fashion capital. The lifeblood of any creative industry is new talent. It is a vital commodity.
It is not simply a question of giving the kids a chance. British design talent already drives many of the big American, Italian and French fashion houses. And it is a nagging worry for investors that many of the established commercial fashion giants rely on aging designers at their helm. New York and Milan may be like the mighty superstores but where on earth would we be without the small independents to take risks the goliaths can’t or won’t. The view from the top isn’t always the most interesting or exciting one. All four cities are inextricably interlinked because we all offer something that contrasts and complements the other.
On top of everything else, a scheduling spat seems unseemly when so many jobs and livelihoods are at stake and business has never been tougher. We trust the powers that be will see sense soon.
- Paula Reed
UPDATE: Grazia has just received a statement from the British Fashion Council confirming 'London Fashion Week is stronger than ever and there is no question that it will continue'.
London Fashion Week will be held from Friday 21st – Wednesday 26th September