Fall fashion struts its stuff in New York
(CNN) -- As New York winds down its bi-annual turn as the world's fashion capital, fashion designers, magazine editors, apparel industry insiders and, of course, celebrities, depart from the billowing white tents in Manhattan's Bryant Park with a look ahead to the fashion trends for fall.
New York's Olympus Fashion Week is produced by 7th on Sixth -- a nonprofit organization formed in 1993 to help American designers become players on the global fashion stage. Olympus has been the title sponsor for four years. But the big events during the week are organized by IMG, a sports and lifestyle event management group, which acquired 7th on Sixth in 2001. Among this year's top 70 designers that hit the runway: Zac Posen, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta. New designers were showcased too, including a runway show in association with Bravo network's reality show "Project Runway."
While Bryant Park is the hub of Fashion Week in New York, there are about 150-200 smaller runway shows throughout the city. Depending on the venue, there may be 600-700 people at a show, or as many as 1,200. Yet it's still not easy to get tickets to the events. Each designer has exclusive control over who attends their shows and post-show parties -- usually a mix of buyers, the press, celebrities and high-profile attendees, says public relations director Zach Eichman of 7th on Sixth.
What happens during fashion week? At the shows, the fashion industry - from the fashion media critiques to buyers and stylists, to the most influential designers -- gather to see the latest designs. For mid-level designers, it's a chance to move up and create more lucrative licensing agreements.
After trends are revealed, buyers place orders and press critique the collections, explains Mary Gehlhar, fashion director of Gen Art. "It's a very big production for a short period of time," says Eichman, "considering the shows average 17 minutes."
Meanwhile, top department stores and the mass chains are watching to see which trends to incorporate in their lines. While you're unlikely to see specific runway ensembles in your local shopping mall come autumn - designers do not even intend for every piece of runway clothing to be worn - some Fashion Week trends do get picked up as mainstream fashion.
"The colors, fabrics and silhouettes we see on the runway have a direct influence on the directional trends we create," says Jessica Paruch, Cotton Incorporated trend forecaster. So, if a lot of designers are using muted colors and earth tones in their runway shows, you may see those shades on the racks next season.
The runway shows can be "exciting, beautiful, and prophetic," said Stefani Bay, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, but adds that the pieces that "click" with consumers are the items that will be appear on shopping racks, reinterpreted in less expensive and outrageous forms, for mainstream consumers.
"Mass market companies take the trends and interpret them to suit their customer," the designer Stephen Burrows says. "Is that good? Chanel was always flattered when copied."
Still, experts agree Fashion Week is no longer purely about fashion. It's an enterprise that's more about gaining commercial advertisements, celebrity endorsements, and the highly coveted post-party invitations.
"Fashion used to be about the upcoming fashion season for buyers of shows and magazines who needed three- or four- or five-month lead times to get it in, but now it's about celebrity," says Kathryn Finny, founder of Budgetfashionista.com. "As there's been a rise in our obsession with what celebrities wear, the general public has become more interested in fashion."
Fashion Week transformed into today's celebrity-driven media frenzies when designers started including celebrity guests, according to Scott Tepper, fashion director for Henri Bendel.
"The shows are so expensive to produce that designers need to generate all the publicity they can when they show their collections, as well as keep their celebrity clientele loyal," Tepper explains. Designers like Marc Jacobs are especially known for attracting celebrities who wear his clothes.
Whether it is New York, Milan, or London (the shows occur twice a year in New York, London, Milan, Paris, and Los Angeles for both men's and women's collections), Fashion Week is big business and that leads to another thing: entertainment. Glamorous parties cap the days of runway shows, including MAC Cosmetic's Chinese New Year themed party and Glamour magazine's "Morning Tea and Touch-ups" event.
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