By  on August 20, 2007

Refinery29, a Web site devoted to independent designers and retailers, on Wednesday will launch "The Countdown," a behind-the-scenes look at six young designers as they prepare their collections for New York Fashion Week. The series will air through Sept. 5, with a wrap-up episode to be presented at the end of fashion week.

"We had a really short list" of potential designers, said Philippe von Borries, creative director of Refinery29. "We wanted to work with designers who'd let us be a fly on the wall."

Alexander Wang, Jeremy Laing, Vena Cava, Rag & Bone, Karen Walker and Ruffian agreed to subject themselves to the camera's scrutiny during what is arguably one of the most stressful times in a designer's life. Episodes will focus on different aspects of the process, from casting models to scouting locations for runway shows.

"Because they're independent, they don't have the same resources" as more established designers, von Borries said. "They're producing the best show they can on a shoestring."

Viewers will see some of the designers using their ingenuity to overcome obstacles. Others will bemoan their bad timing. Rag & Bone, for example, moved into a new studio. "It was chaos," von Borries said.

The designers weren't chosen for having outsize personalities or a combative style for the purpose of entertainment. "We wanted to capture different components of fashion week," said Christine Barberich, Refinery29's editorial director. "If we capture someone stressed out," so be it, she said, explaining that the production team wasn't looking for that. Still, the tag line of an ad for "The Countdown" plays up the tension: "Six designers. Six studios. One feverish race to fashion week."

In addition to Refinery29's 120,000 visitors each month, "The Countdown" will get exposure on MySpace, which gets 60 million to 80 million impressions a month. "We have an exclusive arrangement with MySpace," von Borries said. "MySpace is trying to build up its fashion portal."

Von Borries and Barberich already have started thinking about designers for the February installment of "The Countdown." "It could become a regular channel that people tune into," von Borries said, adding, "'The Countdown' is one next step toward presenting these designers in their own voices."Refinery29, which generates all of its revenue through advertising, has a shopping component, Refinery29shops. "Our heart is really in the media side of things," von Borries admitted. "E-commerce is a form of media and information. It bears that curatorial essence. We're handpicking things and the taste level is there."

The 11 women's stores on Refinery29shops include Lyell, Steven Alan, Lisa Levine, Shelly Steffee, Mick Margo and Eskell. Four new stores are coming onboard: Inhabit, which sells luxury knitwear; All Purpose, a Los Angeles men's store; Stuart & Wright, a men's store in Brooklyn, and Honey in the Rough, a boutique in New York's Lower East Side. "There was a certain learning curve with e-commerce," Barberich said. "We're still figuring out what sells."

So far, Refinery29shops has learned that dresses sell better than everything else and the magic price point is $200.

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