‘Calendar Girl’ will reveal Ruth Finley’s career, New York Fashion Week – WWD
Three and a half years after the death of Ruth Finley, dozens of her creative and passionate friends are expected on Friday for the premiere of the documentary about her over-scheduled life.
Aptly titled ‘Calendar Girl’, the film shows how the American businesswoman launched the fashion calendar, orchestrated the industry’s cascading sequence of events and kept everything under control for nearly 70 years. Designed with a red cover and pink pages so readers could easily find it on their messy desks, the bi-weekly mimeographed publication was a necessity for generations of designers, retailers, manufacturers, media types, advertising executives and others. It lists all the fashion shows, awards galas, launch parties and other must-see activities.
Preferring to stay behind the scenes, Finley, who lived to be 98, was both a leader and a diplomat. Running the show largely independently from her Upper East Side apartment, while raising three children after the sudden death of her second husband, Finley’s professional story is also personal. Decades before WFH became the norm, she, like other single mothers, was doing what was necessary. Despite all the gymnastics it took to fine-tune fashion week schedules, appease high-personality designers and guide the unproven, little Finley did it with flying colors.
A graduate of Simmons College, she started in New York working in the visual department of Lord & Taylor and later wrote for the New York Herald Tribune. With a loan of $1,000 from a friend, she started the fashion calendar in 1945. In the years that followed, she often found herself mentoring young designers, many of whom are now the leaders of industry. Finley once explained to WWD, “Several times a week I get calls from designers, journalists, and PR executives and the question is the same, ‘I wonder if you can help me?’ My answer is always: “I will definitely try.”
It was an understatement. Finley ran the operation almost entirely alone throughout her long career. In 2014, she sold the Fashion Calendar to the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Thom Browne, Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Andrew Bolton, Nicole Miller, Dennis Basso and CFDA general manager Steven Kolb are among the many who portray key exchanges with Finley in “Calendar Girl.” Several of the industry guys featured in the film are expected at the screening, Q&A and cocktail party at Scandinavia House on Friday.
In an interview on Wednesday, Danish-born director, producer and cinematographer Christian D. Bruun praised Finley’s ability to balance work and life as an entrepreneur and “great mom.” in the 1940s and 1950s.
During filming, nothing was forbidden. Finley has opened up about the death of her second husband from a heart attack, when she was 39 and had three children. “She was pretty open about how she felt about things and how she managed to move on with her life,” Bruun said.
Filming began in late 2014 when Finley was selling out the fashion calendar and the New York fashion industry was consolidating. “This seemingly simple timeline had so many implications in the fashion industry and it was changing. At the same time, Ruth had to come to terms with the fact that she was over 90,” Bruun said.
The film star had seen a near-final version of the documentary before he passed away. But she was happier having the story of New York Fashion Week‘s evolution shared than gaining personal fame, Bruun said.
“Somehow it wasn’t about her. She talked about herself with me, but that wasn’t how she worked or why she did what she did. She just did it because she loved being in the industry and doing her job and sending her kids to school,” Bruun said. “I think she would like to be remembered of her as a good mother and a good friend…she just enjoyed the ride.”
Inherently pragmatic and positive, Finley had tried to find a way to keep it in her family, but none of her loved ones thought they could carry on his work as effectively as she did, as much of her success was based on her orchestration and intuition. . , Bruun said. “Later it was decided that the Council of Fashion Designers of America would be the best place for this, and the organization became the new owner.”
As for the more digitally conscious, who could have a “Who cares?” reaction to the idea of such an archaic tool but, as Bruun noted, it was a key piece in the history of fashion.
“A calendar printed in an office can seem insignificant. When you peel back the layers, you really realize it was a gift. What makes it exciting is that it’s held onto that stance of being important even well beyond when it might have become an app or one of those other things,” Bruun said.
And Finley’s unerringly personal touch with designers and other powerful players could not be matched.
“Sometimes I’m sure it was frustrating to have to go through this crossroads. But many times, she offered a solution. Think about the amount of advice she gave people about when they could and should show up and all the logistics were in her head,” Bruun said. “As a reflection of our digital age, everything is removed from customer support. You must check this small box to say whether you are a robot or not. At that time, Ruth was a real person, connecting people, helping people and guiding them.
Recalling how he followed her during fashion week for part of the shoot, Bruun described his warming effect on so many people: “Everyone from Ralph Lauren to the security guards gave him a big hug and said : ‘Hey, Ruth!'”
Diminutive and soft-spoken as she was, Finley was quick to tell designers when their plans might go wrong and why. She said, ‘You can’t show that day because your collection would clash with these other designers. [in the same time slot]or a lunch or a press conference or whatever model you really want to use will be busy for five hours that day,” he explained.
In a non-fashion light, the film shows “how to live a pure good life and be productive,” according to Bruun.
“But the thing is, she just did it for the love of fashion,” he said. “Someone in the movie says most people complain about this big schedule and have to go to all these fashion shows. Ruth just did it – she showed up to as many people as she could And she would probably go to the opera the night after. [laughs].”
Intrigued by how fashion planning and timing continues to be such an integral part of the industry, Bruun said, “There was a metaverse fashion week last time around. All the complexities of the fashion world are about pushing the boundaries. For me, Ruth opened all these doors to understand it and be a part of it. I hope this is part of his legacy.