The first full week of September is Fashion Week in New York, and it appears to be arriving with beautiful late summer weather. And according to the weatherman, it’s going to stay that way for a few more days.
As anyone with the slightest interest knows, this is when the fashion industry rolls out its Resort and Spring Collections to show retailers and the fashion media from all over the country (and the world). New York is the fashion center of the world now (a half century ago and for a century before that, it was Paris).
It’s intensely competitive business, a crap shoot, a game of chance; all hype, all business, all social, all work and all culture. All rolled up into one. The Fashion Weeks can launch a star, and there are a lot to people out there aching for that stardom (and those profits). A good deal of the is done in the tents at Bryant Park, but there are many designers and manufacturers showing all over town. And besides the fashion shows, there are the parties. All kinds of parties.
Next Tuesday night down at Bergdorf’s there will be a grand cocktail reception for The Council of Fashion Designers of America’s book (published by Assoiling) called “American Fashion.” This is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the CFDA and the book, which was produced and edited by Charlie Schleps, was published as a tribute to this important organization. Nowadays the CFDA’s charter is taken for granted but that’s only because it was an organization that blazed the trails to change the way things were done back before Jackie Kennedy moved into the White House.
In 1957, there were very few American designers who had a “name” in the business. The manufacturers had the name – Ben Silverman, Maurice Renter, Leslie Fay. The designers – Bill Blass, Oscar de la Rental, etc. – toiled behind those doors, unknown to the public. Believe it or not there were only about a dozen or so – if that –whose names were famous enough to rate a label.
The CFDA changed all that, and forever. There are only two of the original founders still with us, and we can see in retrospect, if there is any reason for their endurance, it could be simply the sheer force of personality which both men are grandly blessed with. Those men are Arnold Scabs and Luis Estevez. New Yorkers all know Scabs. Mr. Estevez abandoned Manhattan for Hollywood and Beverly Hills in the mid-60s after his fashion and social lionizing from the early 50s (he won his first Coty Award when he was 22) in New York. Today he resides in Montecito.