By and  on January 30, 2002

NEW YORK -- Some designers would prefer that the expression, "Keep your enemies close at hand," not be applied to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

While the organization is planning to present its softer side this season by financing a 7th on Sixth fashion show, rather than attacking one, some designers said on Tuesday that PETA's prior campaign tactics have been too aggressive or violent to accept the inclusion of a PETA-sponsored show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week SoHo this season.

As reported, PETA is financing designer Marc Bouwer's Valentine's Day presentation with the blessing of 7th on Sixth and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Dan Mathews, director of campaigns for PETA, said the organization would not attempt to disrupt other shows in New York as it did in February 2000, when protesters crashed three shows and threw paint and gunk at models.

Several designers called that a positive approach. Others aren't buying it.

"Talk about sleeping with the enemy to get ahead," scoffed fur designer Dennis Basso.

"I think it's wrong," added a spokesman for Halston, one of the shows that was protested two years ago, when a PETA rep meant to throw red paint at models, but splashed former CNN correspondent Elsa Klensch and several other editors instead.

"They have every right to have a show," he said. "But I remember going to the CFDA Awards two years ago, and what they did to Valentino was so wrong. They have done a lot of terrible things to fashion designers in the past and I think it shows a lack of respect that 7th on Sixth would want to have a PETA show."

When Valentino received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, a chorus of protesters drowned out the designer for several minutes before they could be removed by security. The next year, Calvin Klein and his entourage were splattered with pies as they entered the show.

Valentino, whose couture show last week in Paris was interrupted by a sign-toting man storming onto the runway, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but a spokesman for the designer was still willing to give the group some leeway.

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