Meet Ruth Finley, Psychiatrist/Ambassador To The Fashion Industry
The Accessories Council paid tribute to Fashion Calendar founder Ruth Finley, and president Karen Giberson was there to induct Finley into its hall of fame. The industry doyenne—responsible, in large part, for getting the crush of editors, stylists, and buyers to the shows they need to see each fashion week—has been putting out her pink-sheeted bible for an unbelievable 65 years. To mark the occasion, we chatted with the scheduler-in-chief about the mania, the model problems, and the timely (!) Marc Jacobs.
Fashion week is bonkers. How do you keep it all straight?
Well, it’s not easy. We’re very well organized. We do speak personally to a lot of people. If we don’t like a time—if you book four o’clock on Monday—I’ll tell you you’re not going to get the top models because Marc Jacobs booked from three to nine.
What is the process like?
Fashion week isn’t the only thing we do. We publish every other week all year. There is a bridal season, a season where it is more fragrance and beauty products, and we work on that all year round. As far as fashion week is concerned, we start on that at least six months before and begin putting certain things down, working closely with IMG and Milk Studios. Milk already has about 30 presentations booked. We need to keep all [of] those straight. We still have three months.
Do you run into situations where people are stubborn and won’t budge?
Occasionally. Let’s assume you schedule a show and someone comes in on top of you. Obviously I will try to move the second person—if it’s a direct conflict with the same retailers and that kind of thing. If they don’t budge I go to the first person and they will often relent.
What happens if the shows continue to proliferate as they are doing? What if fashion week keeps expanding?
It’s the model problem. Anna Sui has them booked and everyone wants the same models.
Story of our lives.
And designers who do both men and women—like Rag & Bone—are doing two shows that week even though it isn’t a men’s week. We used to get them to combine them. Some people do more. Like Calvin. He does three or four!
You must be incredibly patient.
Oh yeah. You have to be a psychiatrist. And an ambassador.
How has fashion week changed in the 65 years you’ve been doing the calendar?
Tremendously. Years back, the designers showed on Seventh Avenue in the showrooms. If you didn’t get there on time, they would lock the door and that was it. Then Eleanor Lambert started fashion “week.” And she did the shows at a hotel like the Plaza or the Pierre. This was for the press mainly, and the press stayed at the hotel for a week. She called it “press week.” That was very successful—it put New York on the map. But the out-of-town press wanted to be here the same time the collections were shown to the buyers.
And now, with supermodels and celebrity designers, is fashion week better or worse?
I don’t know. Some celebrity designers are making it work, some are not. You have the Olsen twins who are doing a show [for their label, The Row] in September. I’m not sure how their clothes are selling yet, but that’s a show that can’t be too close to another show because they will get huge amounts of press and use top models. Last year they did it—against my wishes—on the half hour and it didn’t work out. Shows need to be on the hour because, as you know, they all start half an hour late anyhow. Except for Marc Jacobs! He’s very precise. If you’re not there at eight you don’t get in.
What are you looking forward to this upcoming season?
I’m looking forward to Lincoln Center. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I liked Bryant Park. It was convenient to the subway. Lincoln Center is certainly a glamorous spot, tying fashion in with the arts.
Is there a particular show you’re excited to see?
I enjoy Ralph Rucci and Marc Jacobs, and Carolina Herrera I always get to. I love to see the young designers. Some are going to be very successful and some aren’t going to make it. I saw the first show that Badgley Mischka did, over 20 years ago, in a tiny loft, way downtown in a not very nice building, with maybe 40 people there. Now…well, they’re a big, exciting show. I remember Marc Jacobs’ first show! It’s exciting to see the designers grow, and some of them are personal friends. That’s a nice feeling.
Where does fashion week go from here?
It’ll be like this for at least 15 years. Fashion is so popular around the world. The show will still go on.