There was a time when Ruth Finley could easily avoid conflicts while putting together the schedule for New York Fashion Week.
This month, the publisher of the pink-paper Fashion Calendar, the trade’s must-read, had to fit as many as eight different runway shows and presentations into one time slot.
“It gets more complicated every time,” said Finley, a petite octogenarian. “More and more young designers, people you’ve never heard of, want to get in.”
We were talking this week in her cozy Upper East Side apartment, where a grand piano was adorned with rows of photographs of her three sons and 10 grandchildren. A digital photo frame on a coffee table rotated images of Finley receiving awards and being hugged by Carolina Herrera.
New York Fashion Week, which starts today and runs through Feb. 16, will bring together about 328 designers, a 61 percent increase from five years ago and the largest lineup to date, according to Fashion Calendar.
The main event, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, will host about 90 shows, including Herrera and Diane von Furstenberg. Another popular venue, Milk Studios in the Meatpacking District, will have 40 runway shows and presentations.
Models will parade in art galleries, hotels and a former synagogue. Carmen Marc Valvo will present his gowns in the Nasdaq building. Moncler will showcase its Grenoble collection on ice, at Central Park’s Wollman Rink.
“I hope it’s not raining,” said Finley, sporting a black Escada suit, crisp white shirt, pearl clips and red nails.
Out of College
She started Fashion Calendar right out of college in 1945, working from her apartment on West 52nd Street. Her secretary was her roommate.
“We had a third-floor walk-up and paid $55 for a furnished apartment with bedbugs,” she said.
At the time, the shows were done by big retailers, not individual designers. Hearing two fashion editors complain about overlapping shows at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue planted an idea in her head that “there should be a clearing house for the fashion shows so that they don’t conflict with each other,” she said.
Now the publication goes out to about 2,000 subscribers internationally, including party planners, chair-rental companies, newspapers and caterers, Finley said. The annual subscription is $550 or $495 for the online version.
“You can’t do anything in this industry without checking with Ruth first,” said Fern Mallis, former senior vice president of IMG Fashion who has worked in fashion for more than 30 years. “As long as I can remember, those pink pages had a prominent place on everyone’s desks.”
Oscar and Narciso
Leafing through the booklet three days before Fashion Week’s start, Finley spotted a problem on the night of Feb. 14.
“I have Oscar de la Renta here,” she said pointing at the 6:30 p.m. slot for a show on 42nd Street, but notes that he’s also doing a show at 7:30 “because he can’t get everybody into one.” That’s bad “because Narciso Rodriguez uses the same models. Narciso is at 8 p.m. at Lincoln Center.”
When conflicts arise, Finley tries to book a woman’s show on top of a man’s show or overlap a young designer with an established one.
“In the olden days, whoever came first got the time,” she said. “But it’s so many now, that people just have to take their chances. It bothers me because my primary function was not to have conflicts.”
So what’s on her personal calendar?
“I try to go to new designers because I want to learn about them,” Finley said. “I used to go to a lot of shows. Now I’ve cut back. During this Fashion Week, I’ll go to, maybe, 50.”
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)