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Burberry, Tom Ford and others might be transforming their show timings come fall and the Council of Fashion Designers of America may be mulling whether to turn New York Fashion Week into a consumer event, but ticket agents, event planners and scalpers are already giving fashion followers access to runway shows, backstage tours and designer meet-and-greets.
It all comes at a price — usually, a very high price.
The demand for entrée to fashion week has given rise to a cottage industry of online brokers – some with dubious methods of obtaining tickets to shows. The exorbitant prices don’t seem to deter style enthusiasts from spending thousands of dollars on the heady mix of fashion and celebrity that can be found in many front rows.
Millionaire’s Concierge, Queen Bee, TicketSupply, New York Fashion Week and Total Management are among the Web sites advertising tickets to New York Fashion Week, which officially begins Thursday.
Total Management lists a NYFW getaway that includes accommodations at the Baccarat Hotel, attending one of the week’s “hottest” runway shows — which it doesn’t specify — and a VIP shopping trip with a fashion expert, priced at $5,500, for two.
The site’s calendar of NYFW shows has a disclaimer in small print that reads: “Please note that price and availability are subject to change upon time of booking as these tickets are not held.”
“The way we get access is from a lot of brands we’ve worked with,” said a Total Management representative. “We’ve produced events or done brand partnerships for film, fashion and sports. These contacts have kindly come to us and said, ‘Let us work with you.’
“We’re working directly with IMG,” she added. “They’ve exclusively put this package together for us so we can give our clients an opportunity to go to shows sponsored by IMG. When clients have a look at the schedule and let me know two or three designers they’re interested in, I’ll go to my contact at IMG and find out if they have availability. They may say, ‘We can’t do this designer, but we can do that one.’”
IMG didn’t deny that it might work with some firms to offer tickets to shows, but stressed that it doesn’t sell them. “IMG does not sell tickets to NYFW: The Shows, and the sale of tickets to shows by third-party brokers is prohibited,” a spokesman said. “In select cases, we do work with external companies and our partners to create hospitality experiences for NYFW, which may include access to shows at the discretion of our team.”
The organization declined to name companies it’s worked with or designers whose shows may have been part of the experiences.
“We get tickets to good shows,” said a representative who handles sales for On Point, a VIP experience provider. “Regular designers are about $950. In-demand designers like Badgley Mischka and BCBG [Max Azria] are $3,500.”
On Point advises fashion week neophytes to “see any show to get the lay of the land. After that, you can try a second trip to see the more highly regarded designers.”
On Point doesn’t tell clients the specific show tickets it can secure until a week before fashion week. “With shows now two weeks away, you’re at the mercy of [ticket sellers]…The tickets are going to be all the more costly. These shows aren’t open to the public. It’s an access thing, so you’re paying a premium.” Asked how On Point acquires its tickets, the representative noted, “We get them from people within the industry.”
According to On Point, trying to engage other guests at a show in small talk isn’t allowed, nor is trying to communicate with the designer. “We’ve had people try to use this as an opportunity to launch their careers. You’re merely a guest, a spectator. You can’t go there trying to pick the brains of designers in the industry. There are no photo opps. You have to sign a code of conduct.”
Beverly Sambrotto, founder of Your VIP Pass, which arranges access to events such as the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting and Times Square New Year’s Eve gala, said the secondary market for fashion week tickets “does exist and $3,500, that is what tickets go for. Those prices would be for major, major designers. Some tickets are quite high.”
Sambrotto knows because “when we really need a ticket for a client who wants to go to fashion week, [concierge companies] sometimes charge those prices. I wish we could circumvent them [concierges]. It’s like when you go to a Broadway show and buy broker’s tickets that are marked up four times.”
Providing Tickets, an event company in The Netherlands, sources fashion week tickets for shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Prices start at around around 3,500 euros [or $3,832 at current exchange] per person for one show.
Wouter Haitsma, an owner of Providing Tickets, said prospective attendees must submit a bio, which Providing Tickets then gives to the “contact of the brand for review and approval.”
Providing Tickets gets its tickets “through invitations and from the designers,” he said. Asked whether designers share in the profits from ticket sales, Haitsma said, “Yes, they do.”
VIP Concierge lists on its Web site a “Zac Posen Exclusive VIP Experience” on Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m., including backstage access and a meet-and-greet with the designer. The cost: $1,750.
“Different shows have different access methods,” said a sales representative for VIP. “With some shows, you receive an e-ticket that they scan. Some shows have physical tickets, in which case we have the tickets hand-delivered to your hotel. Some events might be straight guest lists.”
Asked about front row seats, the rep said, “There are not a whole lot of seats to begin with. We don’t guarantee front row. They’re going to be good seats. Zac Posen, BCBG and Rebecca Minkoff – we definitely have tickets available to those shows. Calvin Klein is a pricey one.
“We don’t do general tickets,” he said. “We do fashion week twice a year, and we are going to be expanding to Milan and Paris.”
“Calvin Klein Collection does not sell tickets to any of the brand’s four annual runway shows in New York City and Milan, nor has the brand ever worked with a third party retailer to sell entry or experiences during New York Fashion Week,” the company said.
When told of the VIP Web site, Celine Mariton, vice president of global communications and marketing at Zac Posen, said, “That’s very concerning. We have a partnership with American Express. We aren’t really selling our tickets per se. They are giving an experience to their best customers. Like anything you do, there are things that shouldn’t be happening. We offered a similar experience to the Amex cardholders last year and had an issue. I saw a ticket on Craig’s List for $800.”
Mariton said she asked American Express to take the VIP Web site down; however, it was up and running at press time. The errant tickets apparently stemmed from the Amex partnership and unscrupulous members who wanted to make a profit by selling tickets to the Web site, Mariton said. “The price is insane,” she added.
The site 1Boxoffice is already advertising tickets for the spring 2017 season that starts on Sept. 9. It even guarantees pair seating. Halil Hayem, who said he works out of the company’s main office in Dubai, would say only that 1Boxoffice “has a network of outside suppliers. I can’t give you more details.” Like other brokers, he said potential customers must complete an online form to get designer names, dates and prices.
Ann Landy, president of AO Productions, whose clients include Carolina Herrera, J. Mendel and Tory Burch, said, “Unless it’s Kanye [West], who is very public about selling tickets to his shows, the people who are selling them are scalpers who get hold of the tickets and sell them. Generally, people are very careful about who their invitations go out to. Because of the Internet and Facebook, it’s a lot easier to gain knowledge about certain shows and try to duplicate a ticket.”
Jonathan Reed, ceo of CS Global, with clients such as Prada, Kate Spade and Jimmy Choo, said the fact that tickets “are being sold and resold certainly speaks to the fact that the CFDA is changing the shows to be more consumer-focused. They’re very much in step with what’s going on.”
“The reason why the CFDA is looking into how Fashion Week can be improved is to protect our industry,” said Diane Von Furstenberg, chairman of the CFDA. “At the end of the day, the industry is a business and the point is giving the consumers what they want. The whole thing must become more relevant.”
Andres Aquino, who produces Couture Fashion Week at the Crowne Plaza, got the idea to create his own fashion show a decade ago. “Someone from a big bank said to me, ‘How can I get my wife into a fashion show,’” he said. “That day it hit me. I thought, ‘Something is missing here.’”
Aquino selects the designers, arranges the after parties and decides on what to put in the gift bags that attendees will find on their seats.
While many of the Couture Fashion Week designers are not well known, that doesn’t stop Aquino from charging $1,200 for a VIP ticket for the show on Friday and $1,500 for the show on Saturday. Front row seats are $100 to $220 a ticket; general seating, $50 to $75.
“When we started, my concept was to bring fashion to the people as opposed to the trade,” he said. “We started offering tickets at very high prices. What we’re offering people is diamonds. People love fashion, but for the longest time no one could go to a show. We created the opportunity for the VIP person to meet the designers and maybe order a custom-made gown.”
Sambrotto, who works with concierge companies around the world, has arranged for clients — corporate executives and celebrities — to see some shows “through my connections, but it was never guaranteed,” she said. Last year, she decided to produce a runway show herself. During Fashion Week in September, Your VIP Pass produced its first show, for bridal designer Rita Vinieris, on the roof garden of Carnegie Hall, and there are plans to produce another show in September.
“Our goal is to keep our ticket prices low,” she said. “Last time, it was $200 per person. In the future we’ll try to keep it at $100 a person. It gives the average consumer a chance to experience this.”
Sambrotto is now trying to procure tickets to the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I have clients — very, very important people — who want to go the ball,” she said. “They can’t imagine anything greater than that. I have 10 people who are on my back day and night.”
Good luck with that one — Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour is known to vet every name on the gala’s guest list.