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LONDON (Reuters) - British Fashion Council (BFC) chief executive Hilary Riva will hold crisis talks with rivals in Paris, New York and Milan on the third day of London Fashion Week over a timing squeeze that threatens London next season.
A BFC spokeswoman told Reuters that New York, which precedes London, would like to change its dates and stage an eight-day fashion week, leaving London with as little as four days to hold its event before the Milan shows begin.
"We're being squeezed in the middle," said a BFC spokeswoman who said Riva would try to massage the dates with her counterparts at the Tuesday meeting.
The writing has been on the wall since the Council of Fashion Designers of America, of which the designer Diane von Fürstenberg is the head, said it planned to push the date of New York Fashion Week back by a week from February 2009, which would mean it would clash with the British collections.
The spokeswoman said New York would also like to change its dates in part to avoid the Labor Day holiday and late summer when Italian garment factories are on holiday, making the production of samples for the spring/summer shows difficult.
Riva was not immediately available for comment and the spokeswoman would not be drawn on questions about the precise nature of her suggestions to stave off a squeeze to London Fashion Week, which generates some 100 million pounds ($176 million) in business and 50 million pounds in media advertising.
Some London stalwarts presented a defiant face to suggestions that their week could come under pressure from New York and Milan, confident that London's reputation for cutting edge design would protect its international appeal.
"Well let them try, let's see what happens ... we'll just make it tighter. These things have happened before, it's not a disaster," said Caroline Charles, whose career in fashion design spans 40 years and shows regularly in London.
About 50 designers will show at London Fashion Week, which takes place twice a year in September and February, usually over six days and is organized by the BFC. Its New York rival is produced by media giant IMG, which also commercially represents some sponsors for Milan internationally.
In the next four days designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Julien Macdonald, Paul Smith, Luella Bartley and Giles Deacon will showcase their collections for the spring/summer 2009 season.
While credit crunch concerns have pressured consumer demand, participants are looking to cash-in on buyers from overseas, drawn to Britain by a weakening pound, which last week hit its lowest level against the dollar since April 2006.
"We've heard there are less U.S. buyers but designers are definitely seeing more emerging markets buyers. The markets that are not so hard hit by the credit crunch will be buying more," Laura Jackson, Assistant Fashion Editor at Drapers magazine said.
Charles said she had not yet felt any pinch from the credit crunch in her sales but was keeping her "fingers crossed" ahead of 2009, when some analysts predict the British economy may experience a shallow recession.
Editing by Robert Hart