Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — The New York shows may be weeding out for spring.
Organizers of New York’s fashion week will likely cut the number of runway venues available in Bryant Park in February and may introduce a plan to make the event a more restrictive affair in terms of who can show there.
A scaled down Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week — with a rumor of just two tents in Bryant Park for the fall 2002 collections — appears to be a likely scenario given the current economic outlook for designer fashion companies. IMG, which acquired the 7th on Sixth production trademarks this year from the not-for-profit Council of Fashion Designers of America, is also said to have taken a sharp financial hit as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which occurred at the beginning of the women’s spring collections.
According to several designers and producers that have contacted 7th on Sixth about showing their collections in the tents, they have been told that the spring collections will be “by invitation only,” which would mark an important change from the past. Ever since the shows were first centralized in Bryant Park in 1994, the CFDA has allowed any designer with the necessary funding to show there.
Asked about the potential change, Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth and vice president of IMG, said: “I’m not prepared to comment on that yet.”
However, acknowledging the current economic climate, Mallis said: “There is some truth to reducing the number of venues.”
According to sources, the company is considering a plan that would incorporate two tents in Bryant Park, rather than the four venues that have been constructed during prior seasons. IMG also is reportedly looking at alternate venues that could be offered for smaller shows during the scheduled Feb. 8-15 presentations. One location that has been suggested is the Altman Building at 135 West 18th Street, which also was used by 7th on Sixth in September 1999 — during the season that Hurricane Floyd hit the tents.
The potential changes are said to be partially driven by cost considerations — recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks have been estimated to cost between $3 million and $5 million. But there are also concerns that many of the companies that typically hold fashion shows in New York may be cutting back their marketing initiatives for 2002 in response to the poor retail environment.
As for the specter of making the venues more exclusive, such a move could be coming in response to recent criticism by the press and retailers that the shows had become too unwieldy, with presentations made by dozens of companies. Designers worldwide have complained that there are too many shows — more than 500 were scheduled worldwide during the spring collections — thereby diluting their importance, according to critics.
Also a factor is an unexpected side effect resulting from the remarkable events of September: Several firms rescheduled their shows in intimate presentations and found this to be a more efficient way of communicating their views on the season to buyers and editors. On the other hand, many designers still consider runway shows to be the most effective way to garner publicity, and should they decide to show in alternate locations around the city they could create a logjam of scheduling conflicts.

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