New Documentary CALENDAR GIRL Celebrates The Iconic Founder Of The Fashion Calendar

For over 70 years, Ruth Finley and the game-changing Fashion Calendar she founded, scheduled every fashion event in New York City. At 95, she sold the calendar, ending an era. Filmmaker Christian D. Bruun celebrates the life of the charming and legendary Ruth Finley in his award-winning feature documentary ‘Calendar Girl’. Digital distributor Syndicado is releasing the film on VOD in the U.S. including Google TV, Apple TV, Vudu and InDemand starting March 8, which also is International Women’s Day.

Ruth Finley, a pocket-sized woman of immense determination, has been the queen of the fashion industry since the 1940s. As a young mother, Finley created the iconic pink Fashion Calendar, a publication that continues to organize and marshal American fashion today. In 2014, Ruth retired at 95 and sold the Fashion Calendar to the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

The documentary examines this momentous transition, and reflects on the life, work and legacy of this trailblazer and the industry she helped create. This is the story of a woman who carved out a place for herself in a man’s world and developed a reputation characterized by tenacity, perseverance, fairness, humanity, diplomacy and decency. Finley influenced the inner workings of New York fashion, she celebrated and was celebrated by both the industry’s powerhouses and rising stars, and she survived its many incarnations.

Her story is told by industry insiders, her sons, and friends, who bear witness to her long career as publisher, entrepreneur, patron saint and fairy godmother to fashion designers. Featuring Bill Cunningham, Carolina Herrera, Nicole Miller, Diane von Furstenberg, and more, this joyous profile is a love letter to fashion and the extraordinary life of one remarkable woman. The film’s title reframes the term’s outdated “pin-up” definition, instead celebrating Ruth Finley’s role as a female icon and her influential and impactful 70-year career shaping the Fashion Calendar.

Steven Kolb (President of the CFDA) and Ruth Finley in the Council of Fashion Designers in America. Photo Credit: Christian D. Bruun

“All of us designers have an emotional connection with Ruth Finley because we all remember when we listed ourselves for the first time in the Fashion Calendar,” said designer Diane von Furstenberg, who has become a fashion icon herself.

“Ruth is the woman who has held the fashion flock together, and by association, brought the industry together,” said fashion maven Donna Karan.

For those whose fashion careers were impacted by Ruth’s presence, there is an acknowledgement of what a trailblazer she was, which is altogether fitting given that we are celebrating women who have made history this month.

“You know, they talk today about the disruptors, in the economy, like an iPhone, or Uber, or all of these major disruptors, and the Elon Musks of the world. But in her day, Ruth was a major disruptor,” said Edie Weiner, President and CEO, The Future Hunters.

‘Calendar Girl’ director, producer and cinematographer Christian D. Bruun shares insight into how he formed a relationship with Ruth before embarking on his film, and what he set out to do in sharing her inspiring story.

“When I met Ruth Finley for the first time over coffee in her apartment in 2014, she was not someone who readily talked about herself, but with the sale of the Calendar, she was prepared to share her thoughts, and her outlook on life resonated with me,” he said.

“I was committed to understanding her long life and character—she disrupted and redefined an enormous and influential industry, and did so consistently without a narcissistic craving for the spotlight. The film explores her impact on fashion, but at its core, is an intimate portrait of Ruth, focused on personal moments and reflection,” he added.

Ruth Finley in the Fashion Calendar office, just before it closed in 2014. Photo Credit: Christian D. Bruun

Ruth was born in 1920 and grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts. At age 11, she approached her father, a dentist, with the resolve to attend college after high school and to have a career and family. Her mother, a homemaker, could not identify with Ruth’s goals, and her friends did not pursue professional lives. While studying journalism at Simmons College in Boston, Ruth spent summers working in New York. There, she met legendary fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, the pioneering organizer of Press Week, precursor to today’s New York Fashion Week.

While working as Lambert’s Girl Friday— a junior assistant entrusted with a wide range of tasks—Ruth was exposed to the fashion industry and cultivated an idea. She would create a clearing house that would help fashion event presenters and attendees avoid preventable conflicts and competition and maximize exposure to the press. The Fashion Calendar was born.

From the first issue in 1945, the Fashion Calendar was an impartial listing service for fashion events in New York City year- round, making sure that no two shows would happen at the same time. This comprehensive, much-sought-after, up-to- date, one-stop-shop publication of who was showing when, with contact information, grew along with the industry. It came to be called the iconic Pink Bible, and made loyal paid subscribers of designers, press, retailers, buyers, models, PR agents, and influencers. Ruth became the supreme behind-the-runway mover and shaker.

When Ruth started, New York’s fashion industry was an island, as described by Stan Herman, former president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). During World War II, the Paris fashion industry was on hold, and American fashion rose to the scene. Ruth played a crucial role in facilitating the sharing of information, and solidified the industry over the years. Ruth established her place as the master connector, planner, and negotiator. Every designer’s first memories of Ruth were of her helping them when they were starting out. She never underestimated the importance and effectiveness of simply picking up the phone, especially when it came to scheduling New York Fashion Week and getting designers their ideal spot on the calendar.

Ruth Finley getting her hair done for a photoshoot. Photo Credit: Christian D. Bruun

Married at 23 to a man 17 years her senior, she divorced Hank Green after having their two sons, Joe and Jim. When she was 39 in 1954, her second husband, Irving Lein, with whom she had her third son, Larry, died of a heart attack. Ruth never remarried, and she raised her sons and built her career from home. She ran the Fashion Calendar while being a soccer mom and president of the Parent Teacher Association. Over the years, Ruth identified her happiness as realized by career and family equally, staying close with her sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She viewed the Fashion Calendar as a family business, and never considered selling it.

But the story gets messier. Ruth’s vision and hard work were celebrated when her industry needed her. Her role became more and more obstructive against the continuing explosive growth of the internationalized New York fashion industry in the convergence of commercialism, technology, and globalization. Ruth could not keep up with an increasingly complicated calendar of events and a rapidly growing number of shows.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, first led by Stan Herman and Fern Mallis and later by Steven Kolb and Diane von Furstenberg, had for many years wanted to prepare the rapidly expanding New York fashion industry to catch up with the changing global media, technology, and consumer landscape. The leaders of CFDA had hoped for the Fashion Calendar to be online, be scalable, and be nimble to cater to the multiplied quantity and demands of shows. They had wanted the CFDA to take control of New York Fashion Week from Ruth’s office of two editors.

Ruth had been reluctant and slow to adapt to technology. She was loyal to her supporters who respected her and were holding on to her personal touch. She had considered hers a family business. Once a beloved problem solver and industry buffer, as the multi-billion dollar industry grew, Ruth became a bottleneck. In 2014, after several years of negotiation, CFDA acquired the Fashion Calendar and began to publish digitally.

Andrew Bolton (Wendy Yu Curator in Charge, Fashion Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Ruth Finley in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) Photo Credit: Christian D. Bruun

Ruth Finley helped build an industry that became so powerful, commercialized, and globalized that it outplayed her and had to leave her behind. Her retirement signaled the inevitable end of an era of her one-on-one personal relationship style. Celebrated as a trailblazer in her time, in the new world, she became the old-fashioned, the old guard.

An emotionally intense journey, the film captures Ruth as she handed over the fashion scheduling baton to the CFDA and its leaders. And as the Fashion Calendar entered the digital world and into online engagement and management, the fashion world wondered how it would fare without the central and accessible role of Ruth Finley.

Ruth Finley passed away in August 2018 at the age of 98. In her time, Ruth was the kind and relentlessly positive face. After selling her calendar in 2014 to the end of her life, Ruth remained a beloved and trusted friend to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and a mentor to both seasoned and young designers.

This International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month, be sure to screen ‘Calendar Girl’ on-demand and celebrate the life of a trailblazing fashion icon.

Comments are closed.