The Future of New York Fashion Week

There are 63 confirmed shows in the Bryant Park tents, and IMG expects to have a total of 65 shows.

NEW YORK — The show goes on, and it’s not too drastically different from previous seasons. And try not to focus on the doom and gloom too much.

This story first appeared in the January 22, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Those were the key messages IMG Fashion was trying to convey at a briefing Wednesday morning. The company, which produces Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Bryant Park, gathered newspaper reporters and public relations executives at its Park Avenue South offices to address the economy and how to best tackle the shows in this climate. The meeting likely also served to rebut recent reports of designers decamping from Bryant Park in favor of low-key presentations at off-site venues.

To date, there are 63 confirmed shows in the Bryant Park tents, and IMG expects to have a total of 65 shows. In February 2008, 67 designers showed on-site.

Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion, told the group that in recent weeks, she has received many calls about tent defections, and lamented the attention on the negative. While Vera Wang and Betsey Johnson, for instance, have decided to try a new venue this season, the tents are seeing additions or returns by the likes of William Rast, Yigal Azrouël, Tommy Hilfiger and J.Mendel.

Steven Kolb, the executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, added the attention on American fashion, particularly Michelle Obama’s commitment to it, is a positive, but he added, “We’d be remiss not to acknowledge that we are going through tough times.”

In recent weeks, the CFDA and IMG Fashion have proposed the idea of designers teaming up for their presentations to lessen show costs, and next month, People’s Revolution clients Mara Hoffman, Sergio Davila and Nicholas K are doing a group show. Elsewhere, Victor Glemaud is doing a combined presentation with Camilla Staerk for his presentation.

Kolb said there are different types of collaborations, too. He lauded Charles Nolan for offering up his studio space for shows, and Michael Bastian will present his collection there. Gilt Groupe, meanwhile, will be sponsoring the Richard Chai show this season.

IMG and the CFDA have been exploring the opportunity of a fourth venue for presentations, and while that didn’t materialize for February, “That is something we are definitely committed to for September,” Kolb said.

Mallis said the tents in Bryant Park continue to have the same amount of sponsors, most of whom have long-term agreements with IMG. In fact, American Express will reveal today that it is returning to the tents, with packages for cardmembers going on sale. Jonathan Adler will design the American Express Skybox. Proceeds of the sale of these packages will contribute to a $250,000 donation by American Express to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.