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fashion-weeksPARIS: War has broken out between Milan and New York -- with London the first casualty -- as the top fashion capitals clash over the dates of their rival style marathons, held back-to-back once every six months.

Twice a year the global pack of fashion buyers, style gurus and journalists trek across the world to scout styles for spring-summer and autumn-winter, stopping for eight days in New York, five in London, seven in Milan and nine for the finale in Paris.

But the 29-day Fashion Week calendar for September 2012 has been jumbled up in an unseemly game of musical chairs -- with Milan overlapping New York by a day, and running over the entire duration of London's own fashion week.

The mix-up originated during the summer, when New York announced it was shifting its shows back by a week to avoid the Labor Day holiday weekend, which it says was harming business.

London duly slid its dates back to accommodate New York -- but the dance ground to a halt in Milan, where the National Chamber of Italian Fashion flatly refused to budge.

Shifting them by even a few days, it argued, would put too great a squeeze on the production schedule for Italian fashion houses, making it impossible to get their clothes into stores in time for the spring-summer season.

Only Paris, which wraps up the fashion marathon, is so far unaffected with its dates following on from Milan.

As things stand, the fashion pack will have to choose between the capitals, a headache for journalists and buyers -- and an even bigger one for models.

But for fashion houses, who invest heavily to showcase their collections before the global fashion pack, the prospect of sending out models to a half-empty room spells disaster.

In stark business terms, Milan weighs considerably more than London.

So if next September's shows go ahead according to the current calendar, observers believe the British capital stands to be the main loser, with buyers deserting its shows to head straight to Milan.

Accusations have been flying back and forth, with New York and London blaming Milan for the headache.

On Friday the Italian chamber's chairman Mario Boselli reiterated his stance -- laying responsibility squarely at the feet of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the British Fashion Council.

Slamming the New York and London Fashion Week organisers as "arrogant and aggressive", he flatly denied in a written statement that Milan had put a spanner in the works.

"Such an accusation, besides showing an arrogant and aggressive attitude towards Milan, was supported by unfair arguments aimed at -- unilaterally -- imposing decisions that had not been agreed upon," he wrote.

Milan, he argued, had clearly informed the industry back in March 2010 of its dates for 2012: September 19-25, "in line with the previous three years, since no different agreement had been made and no objection had been raised by anyone."

He said Milan was open to discussion for 2013 onwards. Until then buyers and journalists will just have to choose sides.

New York's stance rests on a 2008 agreement between the four fashion capitals, under which its Fashion Week kicks off on the second Thursday of September -- which this year falls later than usual in the month.

But both Milan and Paris consider that New York is twisting the facts, since they argue that the three-year 2008 accord was not implicitly renewable.

New York organisers the CFDA said they still hope to find a solution that works for the fashion industry as a whole.

"We are in continued communication with all cities and are working to figure something out that addresses the short term conflict and creates long term agreement," Steven Kolb, the CFDA's chief executive, told AFP by email Friday.

How does the CFDA respond to Boselli's charge of arrogance?

"We have no hurt feelings," Kolb said, insisting that the CFDA was working to find a "solution that meets all cities' interests."

"If Milan, New York and London show at the same time, we are all at risk."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011


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