The invitation is not in the mail.

This story first appeared in the February 2, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

That’s the woeful truth for more than half of the fashion-obsessed throngs who typically cram into the bleacher seats at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue for Marc Jacobs’ fashion show, an event that in recent years has escalated from mere hottest ticket in town to raucous institution.

Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International, said that for the designer’s fall show on Feb. 16 the guest list is being cut from 2,000 (1,100 seated and 900 standing) — to 700, or 500 seated and 200 standing, virtually all of the latter employees. Asked about the celebrity count, he said, “There may be one or two.”

“This isn’t the time to spend the money to entertain the entire world,” Duffy said. As for the retention of the vast venue, he explained: “It’s a great place to show, and it was booked a year ago. I’m not going to pay a cancellation fee.

“Everybody thinks it costs the same money to entertain 500 people as opposed to 2,000 [when you’ve got the space],” Duffy continued. “It doesn’t. All those 2,000 people still need to be seated, they still need to check in, this one needs this, that one needs that, and you know what? It’s very costly.”

He noted the scaling back is in line with the firm’s previously reported decision to forgo a post-show party this season. “It’s not going to be like it has been in the past, where Marc Jacobs Inc. entertains everybody for the evening,” he explained. “I’m not saying it’s not going to go back to that, but right now, during this economic environment, it would seem ostentatious for us to continue doing the same thing. [The feeling is] just have the people that need to be there be there and look at the clothes.”

In addition to stores and publications seeing their entourage allotments reduced, many of those not making the cut are friends and family of those who will.

“Obviously, it’s been a free-for-all,” Duffy acknowledged. “We would invite people that didn’t have to be there, and there’s a certain energy to that. A lot of our editors would ask if their husbands could come, their kids. It was entertainment. We got a lot of requests: ‘Can I bring so-and-so?’ This time it’s no.”

He and Jacobs are also saying no to the kind of elaborate set that has become de rigueur at the show. “This is not the time for extravaganzas,” Duffy stressed. “This is just a time for everybody to mind their p’s and q’s.”

Reevaluating show expenditures is part of the process of prioritizing in tough times. “You are forced to make choices. I don’t ever want to lay anybody off,” he said. “People say, ‘Do you want to continue to advertise?’ Of course I want to continue to advertise. ‘Do you want to pay benefits to your employees?’ Yes. ‘Do you want to continue to give them a clothing allowance?’ Yes…. To other people, the heritage of the company is the parties and the extravagant fashion shows. Well, our extravagant fashion shows only started four years ago. The heritage that Marc and I want to protect is about the people that work here and the business — being responsible to the business. That is more important than to have a party.”


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