NEW YORK — Shiseido made headlines two seasons ago when the beauty giant bankrolled the Bruce design team’s fashion show.

Now, considering the climate of the designer market in the aftermath of Sept. 11, it’s perhaps bigger news that the cosmetics company is sponsoring not one, but two fashion shows — Bruce and Benjamin Cho — during the fall ready-to-wear presentations in New York next month.

“Everyone’s been hit so hard,” said Liz Goldwyn, fashion consultant for Shiseido. “The wake of [Sept. 11’s events] has crystallized it: people are pulling away from young designers. The superfluous expenses going first will be the support of risky endeavors — younger people,” she said.

In contrast, Goldwyn believes the time is right for Shiseido to stick to a philosophy of arts and culture before commercialism. “Shiseido has the opportunity and it’s important to support the people [in whom] we had a lot invested from the beginning,” she said.

Shiseido sponsored Cho for the first time last season, but his show, scheduled for Sept. 12, never happened because Fashion Week was canceled the morning before. Cho had no time to be disappointed, though, because he found himself scrambling to get spring looks out to potential clients — an effort which consumed about half of the five-month period between his scheduled shows.

Bruce’s show on Sept. 9, however — produced with partial sponsorship from Shiseido — went off without a hitch.

During an interview last week at Manhattan’s Japan Society, Cho, along with Nicole Noselli and Daphne Gutierrez of Bruce, expressed both surprise and relief regarding Shiseido’s continued support this season. These days “it’s hard for young designers to keep going and [Shiseido] has continued to be a major help,” said Noselli. Case in point: Goldwyn approached the Japan Society to see if the organization would donate its space for the two shows. The result: Bruce and Cho are now scheduled to present in the 278-seat auditorium there on Feb. 10 and 12, respectively.

“When people are taking away sponsorships post-Sept. 11, this is quite a gesture,” Gutierrez said, adding that this type of support is empowering to young designers because it lends credence to their cause and gives others in the industry the perception that “there’s something there” worth supporting.

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So, after several sponsorships over the last three seasons, is this the beginning of an institution? Noselli may have summed up the collective sentiment of the three designers by saying, “I hope so.”