Celebrities were sparse at the New York collections, but those who ventured out managed to make the most of their appearances by plugging their latest ventures— and trawling for deals. This time around, most couldn’t count on designers for appearance fees. A free dress maybe, but certainly not the five-digit payouts A-listers landed back in the day.

So showgoers settled for the free publicity and exposure at Bryant Park, talking up endorsement deals and product launches. And why not? Alliances are up for the taking, considering Kevin Federline is ironing out a children’s wear deal, Jennifer Aniston is shopping for a beauty gig and Salma Hayek is developing drugstore-worthy beauty products for the masses.

Before Catherine Malandrino’s show, Mary J Blige said designing apparel has always been a dream, and she has chatted up a few prospects. In Nicole Miller’s front row, Grammy winner Estelle said  she would also like a signature line, but she would prefer to learn from a master: “I would be happy to get a coffee with Karl Lagerfeld.”

As the lights went down at Pamella Roland, Nicky Hilton alluded to a fashion-related deal in the works for Japan. At Badgley Mischka, Mark Indelicato of Ugly Betty said he’s pulled together a few denim samples with Disney for a yet-to-be-licensed line. Kat DeLuna is also eager to see her name on a label, preferably gloves, handbags or shoes.

Beauty seems like more of a sure thing for some. Maybe they read that Faith Hill, Queen Latifah and even Tim McGraw have scents in the works. Even B- and C-listers can get upward of $1 million for beauty deals. Making the rounds at the shows, Kellie Pickler said she has a new alliance with Sexy Hair. Before the Red Dress fashion show, Samantha Harris of Dancing With the Stars plugged Salon Silky, Kristi Yamaguchi touted OPI nail polish and fellow Olympian Amanda Beard chirped about Mission Skincare, which she, Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, Steve Nash and other athletes have launched.

Wonder Woman Lynda Carter heralded her new CD, aptly named At Last, and another Seventies star, Valerie Bertinelli, lauded her second book, Finding It, due out this year. More unexpected was Patricia Arquette’s ambition to whip up an educational, nontoxic toy line. “I want to be a toy baron,” she said.

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