c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK ó Next Friday night, Iíll be leaving for London and the beginning of the European leg of the spring fashion relays. Do I seem eager to forget the New York shows even as they start? Not at all ó as they say, I love New York! There are always a bunch of shows here that I look forward to seeing: Joseph Altuzarra, Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander Wang, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, Louise Goldin, Ralph Lauren. Iím curious to see what Thom Browne will do this season. Thatís a goodly number of shows to anticipate, and Iím sure Iíve missed someone.

But for the past few years, the narrative here seems to open the same way: ďThe trouble with the New York shows ...Ē Itís a surefire way to kill off fashion customers and readers, those who havenít already expired from boredom.

Not that the media shouldnít report on the general disaffection with the Lincoln Center tents, which are run by IMG and sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. Store executives (who have to sell these expensive clothes, after all) should hammer away at IMG and, while theyíre at it, the Council of Fashion Designers of America. They should demand better for New York.

But, as it is, there doesnít appear to be any CFDA oversight, or if there is, itís not effective. When I walked into the tents Thursday for the Richard Chai show, I was less aware of a fashion environment than a brand blast. I mean, you wouldnít know that itís a place to seriously consider and promote American design. And each season it gets a little tackier in the tents. I wonder, too, what Mercedes-Benz gets out of the association. This is luxury?

So here is why I mentioned Europe: Nobody in Paris or Milan has this conversation. You may hear some bellyaching thatís unique to Milan (essentially, not enough new talent), but the designers and the organizers get down to business and put on great collections. There is no sideshow atmosphere, no distractions that somehow become the main event, as they do in New York, and diminish the real brand: American fashion. Paris is still the best capital for fashion because the organizers are dead serious about it and protective.

The shocking condition about New York Fashion Week is that the industryís leaders are not protective of it. I was surprised to learn, in Eric Wilsonís report in The New York Times the other day, that Diane von Furstenberg, the president of the CFDA, offhandedly remarked to some of her peers that designers will be showing online in a few years. Maybe so, but what happens in the interim?

Again, you donít hear designers and fashion executives in Europe talking as if such a thing is a fait accompli. If anything, the live show has gained in prestige and value, thanks to designers like Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons of Dior and Alessandro Sartori of Berluti, to mention a few. But here, we seem to be stuck in a Beckett-quality funk: nothing to be done.