By  on February 4, 2009

NEW YORK — “Runway to reality” is no longer just a catchphrase this fashion week.

After testing the concept quietly last September, QVC is moving full steam ahead with its runway show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, where, on Feb. 14, the shopping network plans to stage a live runway show and two-hour selling portion of the pieces from the runway on TV. It means the spring merchandise can land in shoppers’ homes within two days of the show — and months before the fall collections, also on view that week, hit the stores.

QVC is using the runway exposure to introduce several new lines, including Logo by Lori Goldstein, A List by Alvin Valley, Elisabeth Hasselbeck for Dialogue, and a handbag line by “Desperate Housewives” stylist Cate Adair. The show will also bring existing QVC brands M by Marc Bouwer, B. Makowsky and Simply.Chloe Doa to the Bryant Park tents.

QVC was encouraged to return this season after its test run resulted in viewership nearly triple that of other programs.

“We exceeded our sales objectives,” said Michael George, QVC’s president and chief executive officer. “We had 22 sellouts of the 27 products we sold, so the customer interest in the products was high. But even more important than that, we posted an all-time QVC record for highest viewership outside of the fourth quarter.

“Both from the commercial sales aspect but also from the entertainment value, it really energized our consumers,” George added.

QVC’s use of the runway to fuel clothes sales could further inspire other designers, who have often lamented that the heightened media attention and immediate coverage of shows on Web sites and blogs doesn’t always serve the business best, to adopt similar tactics. Last February, Halston teamed up with to offer two pieces from its fall runway for immediate delivery. Like Halston, the QVC initiative helps capitalize on the buzz and interest in the shows, but at a mass price point.

“We are clearly trying to expand our fashion business, and bring those sorts of designer names to our customer and our price points,” George said.

Among the new designers the firm has recruited is “The View” co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She already had some fashion experience under her belt, having worked at Puma and Reebok, designed her own wedding gown and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. “I am aiming to achieve something that is tasteful, chic, has a hint of the past but is attentive to a modern woman’s needs, in terms of fabric, makeup, lining and price,” Hasselbeck told WWD. The collection, which retails from $40 to $80, includes a Ponte knit dress, a jacket with a brocade feel, an animal print cardigan, a long cable knit vest sweater with a ruffled sleeve, and a cropped ruched jacket with a nautical lining.

Hasselbeck famously campaigned with Sarah Palin during the election but sees her collection on many different types of women. “I don’t discriminate....I think all women will be happy with these clothes,” she said. “The woman who shops for QVC is smart and knows the clothes need to work for her.

“[Palin] would absolutely fall into that category, but so would Michelle Obama, I bet,” she added, noting she plans to wear the pieces herself. “I think I snuck a piece on the air already,” Hasselbeck said.

Stylist Lori Goldstein, who has worked with designers such as Vera Wang and magazines like Italian Vogue and W, is also new to the lineup. The network is relying on Goldstein to bring an insider’s fashion point of view to the program, and her collection for QVC, priced from $30 to $120, will include a military-style jacket with a ruffled detail, a black and white faux snakeskin bag and a military-style jacket with taffeta ruffles on the button, and several scarves (Goldstein rarely leaves home without a scarf). “QVC has given me this opportunity to really pick out my favorite pieces and put them together in the way that I always style and dress,” she said. Goldstein is also expected to offer her view on fashion week, designers and trends.

“It is an amazing time to be looking for ways to take the brand in different levels, especially in this almost nonexistent economy,” said Alvin Valley, whose line for QVC will retail for $54 to $89. (He will also show his signature collection during fashion week on Feb. 12.)

“QVC has a following which does not diminish the appeal to my brand but rather creates a new way to reach a consumer directly,” said Valley.

QVC plans to return with the show concept in coming seasons, adding new designers each season.

“Fashion week for us is also an opportunity to tell our story, and to begin to move away from those 20-year-old, outdated stereotypes of home shopping, to what it is today: a multimedia platform for educating and entertaining customers, providing great fashion to them,” George said. “I think there is a lot of misconception about what our business is. This is a way to really break through those misconceptions and show beautiful product from great designers, with the excitement and energy from fashion week behind it.”

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