Fashion Week Has Jews Torn Between Runway Shows and Rosh Hashanah
By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Fashion writer Carrie Goldberg lives for Fashion Week and makes it a point to attend the shows by hot young designers, which are usually on the first couple of days of a weeklong marathon of runway shows.
But this year, instead of watching Richie Rich's models stride down the runway at Lincoln Center on Sept. 9, she'll be tucking into brisket with her family as they celebrate Rosh Hashanah in New Jersey.
Goldberg is one of many Jewish fashion industry insiders forced to choose between fashion's biggest week and Rosh Hashanah, one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year.
Fashion Week kicks off on Thursday Sept. 9, smack in the middle of Rosh Hashanah, a multi-day holiday that observant Jews will celebrate from the night of Sept. 8 through Sept. 10.
In an industry where Jews are well-represented — designers Zac Posen, Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs are all Jewish, to name a few — the conflict between haute couture and High Holidays is causing some wrinkles.
"My favorite shows, I can't go to," said Goldberg, a stylist and blogger who writes about fashion for Jewcy. "There are very few times where I have to say that family comes first before work and this is definitely one of them. This and Passover."
Goldberg will celebrate Rosh Hashanah with her Modern Orthodox family, who won't be working or using electricity during the holiday. But she said she might sneak off to power up her laptop and check Style.com for coverage.
Fashion Week organizers say they're sorry about the inconvenience, but it was unavoidable.
New York is the first city on the international fashion calendar, and events here must be planned around events in London, Paris and Milan, said Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, in an e-mail.
"Due to many logistical factors, we had little flexibility," Kolb said.
At least two designers, BCBGMAXAZRIA and Israeli-born Yigal Azrouel, asked to have their shows rescheduled to accommodate the holiday, Kolb said.
Izzy Grinspan, New York editor of fashion blog Racked, said some were surprised by the scheduling conflict.
"Because New York is such a Jewish center, people have come to assume that things will get planned around Jewish holidays in a way that they wouldn't be elsewhere," said Grinspan, who will spend the night of Sept. 8 with her family in Philadelphia.
Observant Jews will have to skip Fashion's Night Out on Sept. 10, a citywide event where fashion retailers stay open late and offer special deals.
Fashion writer Leandra Medine, who writes for Styledon.com, said she'd love to attend, but she'll be with her family in the Hamptons eating traditional Rosh Hashanah foods like apples and honey and pomegranates.
"It's a little bit ridiculous," Medine said. "Even for Jews that aren't very religious, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the most widely kept holidays."
"If every Jew in the city is at their synagogue, (instead of at Fashion's Night Out) I can't imagine how that's going to be helpful, especially when we're trying to boost the economy."
London's Fashion Week next month faces a similar problem: runway shows coincide with Yom Kippur, another key Jewish holiday.
Fashion editor Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune recently criticized the British Fashion Council for the conflict.
“In three decades in fashion I have never known a show in any part of the world to be scheduled on Easter Sunday or Monday,” Menkes said, according to a story in the Jewish Chronicle.
Rosh Hashanah, which marks the start of the Jewish New Year, is a time of quiet reflection spent with family, when Jews take stock of their lives, said Elana Stein Hain, community scholar at Lincoln Square Synagogue.
"It's a time to stand back, look at where you're going in life, and why," Stein Hain said. "There's a resolve to become better people, a resolve to do penance, a resolve to do prayer."
That mood doesn't quite mesh with the glitz of Fashion Week.
"You're supposed to be seriously considering your life and how to be a good person," Grinspan said. "It's supposed to be this very solemn time when you're full of reflection, and maybe not running around thinking about clothes."
On the other hand, there is one slight connection between Rosh Hashanah and Fashion Week.
"It's spring fashion week, so they're showing clothes that will be worn six months from now," Grinspan said. "There is a sense of looking to the future and seeing renewal."