Fashion capitals hammer out schedule compromise

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London Fashion Week staved off a tight squeeze between rival shows in New York and Milan next season in a compromise deal with fashion councils in New York, Milan and Paris, the British Fashion Council said on Tuesday.

A model wears a creation by Ossie Clarke during his spring/summer 2009 show at London Fashion Week September 14, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

BFC Chairman Harold Tillman said in a statement that the four fashion capitals agreed to secure London a five-day slot on the global fashion calendar. That means London loses one day from its current six-day catwalk schedule.

“I am delighted that this meeting has brought our fashion capitals closer together,” Tillman said. “It has highlighted our interdependence, commitment to nurturing talent and our sharing of ideas and goals.”

The agreement means London, which generates some 100 million pounds in business and 50 million pounds in media advertising, will not be squeezed into a four-day sprint.

That would have forced the BFC to consider making decisions about two-tiered schedules or juggling its commitment to cutting-edge youth designers against big-drawing names such as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith.

Talk of the squeeze emerged last year after the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced it intended to move its dates for the upcoming autumn 2009 season in February.

“We all agree it is very important to preserve London Fashion Week, it provides the pool of talent we all benefit from,” designer and CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg also said in the statement.

One of New York’s main reasons for changing its dates is to avoid the Labor Day holiday and late summer when Italian garment factories are on holiday, making the production of samples for the spring/summer shows difficult.

The agreed compromise allows New York to move its slot back, satisfying the needs of its designers, while ensuring a full five-day slot for London from September 2009 onwards. Full details are still to be ratified with each capital’s designers, the statement said.

BFC spokeswoman Caroline Rush said the February shows will be a “slight transition season” as New York has already announced its dates, creating an overlapped day with London.

“They are going to keep to their current position for February, but look at the actual scheduling which will allow the times (for) all of our international visitors to get to London for the shows,” Rush said.

Crush said London’s six-day schedule has only been in effect since 2006/07, so a five-day schedule would not be too slim.

The deal also comes on the heels of the launch of a British fashion fund this week to provide funding and support for the emerging designers who have a habit of springing from the London fashion scene onto the international stage.

“Now we have secured five days we feel it is a very strong position to create a new-look fashion week and a strong vision going forward, creating new opportunities for the businesses here,” Rush told Reuters.

Designers such as Julien Macdonald, Paul Smith, John Rocha, Luella Bartley have already shown this week alongside British fashion brands such as Jaeger and Aquascutum. Vivienne Westwood, Armand Basi and Henry Holland, among others will also showcase their collections for the spring/summer 2009 season in the final three days left.

While credit crunch concerns have pressured consumer demand, participants are looking to cash in on buyers from overseas, drawn to Britain by a weakening pound, which last week hit its lowest level against the dollar since April 2006.

“We’ve heard there are less U.S. buyers but designers are definitely seeing more emerging markets buyers. The markets that are not so hard hit by the credit crunch will be buying more,” Laura Jackson, Assistant Fashion Editor at Drapers magazine said earlier this week.

Editing by Robert Hart