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If the biggest star at New York Fashion Week has been Donald Trump at Michael Kors, there is news for celebrities: You’re fired.

After several seasons in which a slew of starlets and reality show contestants filled the front rows, there’s been a noticeable scaling back this time round. It’s not that you missed J.Lo and Reese and Nicole on your rounds: They just didn’t bother to show up.

“I think it’s the first season I haven’t been run over by Beyoncé’s bodyguard,” said Cindi Leive, the editor in chief of Glamour. The lack of star wattage at the shows this season is partially the result of the freezing-cold temperatures that have socialites, editors, buyers and celebrities alike bundled up like bubble people. “It’s really hard to show off your tootsies when it’s 10 degrees out,” noted Ingrid Sischy, the editor in chief of Interview.

And there was the scheduling of the Super Bowl during fashion week — “In Miami, no less, which is warm,” publicist Paul Wilmot pointed out — not to mention a slew of promotional events in Los Angeles related to the Oscars, which were moved up this year from March to late February.

But it’s almost always cold in February in New York, and the Super Bowl was held at the same time last year. So while those explanations may have some validity, other observers cited the alack of celebrities as proof fashion week has been organized poorly, that it lacks sufficient glamour — and that, at some shows, the tacky factor is way too high. (One veteran publicist complained of the “souk atmosphere” in the tents with aggressive Mercedes salesmen, a cocktail bar in the back and AstroTurf on the floor.)

It’s as if the pendulum has swung and the industry is self-correcting after several seasons in which a phalanx of reality-show winners and underemployed actors rushed the tents, thereby turning an appearance at the shows into a fairly reliable indication that one had too much time on one’s hands.

Just as soon as the photographers at the Marc Jacobs show in September could be heard screaming, “Hey Winona, over here,” others could be heard asking, “Hey? What’s she done lately?”

This story first appeared in the February 9, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Ditto for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, both of whom also showed up at that show — though Kutcher was “working,” covering the shows for Harper’s Bazaar.

As Jessica Paster, who dresses Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson, said, “The celebrities who go to the shows season after season go because they don’t work.”

Moreover, when big names in the prime of their careers did grace the fashion world with their presences — take Renée Zellweger’s appearance at Carolina Herrera two years ago, for example — the response from reporters and photographers was so frenzied that it became an unbearable circus, one that could not really be justified, given that the clothes are available for viewing the following morning on

“The paparazzi have become so aggressive that a star can’t walk four steps to her seat without cameras going off,” complained Rachel Zoe, Hollywood’s best-known celebrity stylist, who was here in New York this week, sans clients.

“So the celebrities could be thinking, ‘Why should I go through that?’ while the designers think, ‘Why should I disrupt my show?'”

“If you’re even remotely famous, you wind up like a captive animal at a petting zoo,” concurred Janice Min, the editor in chief of Us Weekly.

This might not bother Britney Spears, who showed up at Baby Phat Friday night. But by and large, the biggest boldface sightings this week — Rachel Weisz and Claire Danes at Narciso Rodriguez, Ellen Barkin and Susan Sarandon at Diane von Furstenberg — have been people who have time-tested friendships with the designers whose shows they were attending. Consequently, the reaction was more subdued. As Rodriguez said to WWD on Tuesday night at his show’s after party: “I know [Weisz and Danes] are celebrities, but they’re my real friends.”

Of course, the crush of attention at the European shows isn’t much better — but it’s much more exotic to be in Milan or Paris than Sixth Avenue. After all, when Katie Holmes wanted to hit the fashion shows, she went overseas.

“There’s definitely still a place for celebrities in fashion, but I’m not sure it’s in the front row,” said fashion consultant Robert Burke. “The last few seasons, it just seemed like overexposure, the celebrities became a bit of a distraction and it made the fashion houses seem less serious about their collections.”

Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, agreed: “There were a lot of B-level celebrities and it backfired a bit on the designers.”

Like Leive, she was happy to see things calm down: “Isn’t it wonderful? You can actually get to your seat.”

And of course, there’s always an up-and-coming celebrity looking for press, and when they do show up, no one seems to refuse them entry.

Witness Camilla Belle, this season’s most ubiquitous front-row face: She’s 20 years old and her most recent release was a horror movie remake called “When a Stranger Calls,” in which she played a babysitter trapped in a house with a psycho-killer.

Didn’t see it? Neither did we. But in an age where becoming a socialite takes little more than the ability to fit into a designer sample, this was accomplishment enough to land her a recent cover of Teen Vogue, a Vera Wang fragrance campaign and a spot as a celebrity runway model in a benefit show Feb. 2 supporting the fight against heart disease. After that, Belle remained in New York, where it became virtually impossible to miss her and her equally omnipresent mother, Deborah. There they were at Phillip Lim…and MaxAzria…and Peter Som…and Carlos Miele…and Derek Lam…and Oscar de la Renta.

At Wang’s show on Thursday, Belle said her only reason for being there was that “I love fashion.”

And some people are only too happy to buy into the celebrity hype. Just moments before the show started, a woman jumped into the seat next to Belle and said hello: “Hi, I’m Lucy Danziger, the editor in chief of Self magazine. And I just wanted to introduce myself to ask if you would consider being in our magazine at some point?”

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