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How fashion shows us the money

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If you think New York Fashion Week is a parade of impractical clothes worn by skinny models and celebrated by overindulged editors, you’re right.
But it’s also much more. The semiannual runway extravaganza generates an estimated $253 million for the city and helps keep the retail, hotel and nightlife businesses healthy.

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F YOU THINK NEW YORK FASHION WEEK

is a parade of impractical clothes worn by skinny models and celebrated by overindulged editors, you’re right.
But it’s also much more. The semiannual runway extravaganza generates an estimated $253 million for the city and helps keep the retail, hotel and nightlife businesses healthy. Not only that, but the collections – which start Friday at the Bryant Park tents and end the following Friday – preserve New York’s glamorous reputation as the nation’s fashion capital.

“Fashion Week is one of the more lucrative events for the city,” said Cristyne Nicholas, president and CEO of NYC & Company, the Big Apple’s official tourism marketing organization. “It’s a magnet for business to NYC and it helps build the image. A lot of international buyers come in, and every time they do, they see the improvements. To us, it’s a huge international press familiarization tour.”Indeed, an estimated 400 photographers, 80 television crews, editors from more than 250 magazines and hundreds of models from far-flung places pack the tents. More than a dozen designers among the 100 or so scheduled to unveil their fall lines hail from foreign countries.
“The tents are the Ellis Island of fashion for America,” said Fern Mallis, executive director for 7th on Sixth, the show organizer. “We have a Hong Kong group and designers from Turkey, Brazil, Australia, England and other countries. These are people who recognize that showing in New York is the best way to focus on their clothing.” They’re not the only ones who appreciate the impact of beautiful models prancing down catwalks in trendy togs.

Companies from Olympus (the title sponsor) to Song airlines to Silhouette clamor to fund the collections, hoping to put their products in the hands of influential fashion editors.
After all, an editor who likes the Silhouette shades she scores for free at the tents just might feature them in her magazine. That exposure leads to increased sales.
With less than a week to go before the action starts, the mood on Seventh Ave. is upbeat. “Business is getting better and people are more optimistic,” Mallis said. “We have so much hot talent.” Fashion Week has a huge impact on the shopping scene, hotels, bars and clubs. Read on.

The Industry

New York City’s apparel industry produces $35 billion in revenues annually and employs 150,000 people, according to Mayor Bloomberg, who announced the figures at a Fashion Week reception last September. However, the sector is said to be in a slump, with 2002 employment in Manhattan alone slipping 4.8% to 58,877 from 2001 levels – something the mayor aims to combat. Much of the decline is in manufacturing jobs.

Nightlife

Fashion Week floods the city with celebs and a bevy of beautiful people – just the kind of crowd club owners and restaurateurs hope will hit their openings. So proprietors take advantage of the ready mix of revelers by holding opening bashes and glitzy post-show soirees in September and February. “Last fall, owners were all waiting for Fashion Week to happen,” says Chris Hoffman, CEO of Shecky’s, a comprehensive guide to clubs. “Everybody wants to launch with that whole bang of everybody famous going to the opening.” Last February, Lobby on W. 38th St. made its debut. In September, fashionistas feted Lexington Ave.’s LQ, among others. Next week, Rande Gerber will open the swanky Stone Rose in the Time Warner center. Gerber’s 5,000-square-foot boite will host designer Zac Posen’s after-party on Feb. 12, an event sure to draw a glittering group. The Victoria’s Secret posse may be hotter than the food at Spice Market, a new Meatpacking District restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Gray Kunz. Gisele and Tyra will mingle with model friends at the restaurant’s first big event, a celebration of VS” new photo book, “Backstage Sexy.” Clubs that opened recently will use the week to get the A-list’s attention. For the fashion elite, Social Club on E. 27th St. will unveil its ultra-exclusive VIP room. Social Club will even dispense drinks inside the tents to make its presence known. Down the block, The Gershwin Hotel hopes for an image upheaval with parties at its new bar, Gallery at the Gershwin. And the hotel’s Tang Restaurant opens to the public Feb. 14 at Fashion Week’s end  just as models, editors and designers are breathing a sigh of relief. Amy DiLuna

Hotels

Some 1,800 members of the press visit the city during the collections, and they have to bunk somewhere. So they book rooms at the city’s sleekest hotels – the Mercer, the Royalton, the SoHo Grand, the Hudson, the Bryant Park Hotel and the W properties are all favorites of the fashion pack. (Think high-design rooms that cost upward of $225 a night and a crowd right out of “Sex and the City.”)
“The first quarter of the year is generally slow, but Fashion Week changes that dynamic,” says Brad Wilson, area managing director for W Hotels of New York. “Most of our five hotels [in Manhattan] will probably sell out during Fashion Week.”

Retail

Smart fashion brands time their store openings to coincide with Fashion Week. That way, out-of-town tastemakers can visit the new digs and purchase all the latest must-haves.
Boutiques scheduled to open this season include Original Penguin, a casual wear line; Furla, a luxury leather goods collection, and, biggest of all, a four-story Louis Vuitton emporium.

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