By  on January 17, 2008

NEW YORK — American Express is supporting emerging designer talent as well as giving shoppers a way to pay for their clothes.

The company has committed $500,000 to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund that has been helping young designers with a cash prize and mentorship for four years.

"We like to do things in the right way, and we like to support industries in which we have a presence," said Jessica Igoe, American Express' director of global sponsorship marketing. "The CFDA for us is absolutely the right partner to support the overall industry, and to show how dedicated we are, especially to the young and emerging designers."

Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, added: "To be able to now partner with a company like American Express, which falls outside the family of fashion, recognizes the strength of the program. It's a great partner for us, as it helps us increase our ability to further award business grants and assign mentors, and it extends our reach and makes us more visible."

A portion of the money committed to the fund will come from several initiatives American Express is offering during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, of which it is a sponsor. The company is also making an additional contribution to bring the donation to the committed value.

Among the initiatives to support the fund this season is a card-member-only fashion show. American Express tapped Peter Som to stage his fall runway presentation a second time exclusively for American Express card members. The show will take place in the tents in Bryant Park at 9 p.m. on Feb. 6, and card members can buy tickets for $150 each at on Jan. 23.

"We feel this is a way to provide unprecedented access and support to a designer," Igoe said.

For the second season, American Express is featuring its Skybox, which will offer direct views of the main tent and the Promenade space at the shows. Packages were made available to gold card, platinum card and centurion card members. One-show packages sell for $150, while the two-show package goes for $250. They went on sale on the Web site on Wednesday night.American Express is also introducing a By Invitation Only initiative, offering invited platinum card and centurion card members full-day access to the Skybox on Feb. 2 and 3, including some behind-the-scenes access, and visits to hair and make-up stylists for the occasion. The $700-a-person tickets were made available in December and are already sold out.

"We are interested in providing access in industries and areas we know our card members are passionate about," Igoe said. "We know our card members are interested in fashion both from designers and the retail experience."

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