The 7th on Sixth shows may still be the most American of fashion presentations, but its global quotient is getting stronger by the year.
The international flavor comes from the name down: For the first time, the shows, which run Feb. 8-16, will be called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The German luxury car company signed on earlier this year as the title sponsor of the semiannual Bryant Park fashion shows, replacing the American icon General Motors.
“Mercedes-Benz was the right company at the right time,” said Fern Mallis, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and 7th on Sixth. “Their products are so design conscious, they speak to the designer mentality.”
Mallis said that the number of international designers rises each year. This year, several new designers from around the world, including Russia’s Valentin Yudashkin and Finland’s Pia Myrvold, will be showing their wares to the American market place.
Of the 95 shows this year — last season there were 98 shows — several will be presented by young designers who showed as part of a group in past seasons. Alice Roi, a graduate of the Moet & Chandon show, and Slinky Vagabond, a part of Paper magazine’s show last season, are two designers going solo.
Cynthia Steffe and Bob Mackie are also back for the first time in many years, and Narciso Rodriguez, who has been holding his shows in Milan, will show for the first time in New York.
“This is the entry door for the international world to show their collection to the American media,” Mallis said. “America is an enormous business opportunity.”
At the same time, some perennials like Nicole Miller, Tse New York and Bill Blass have pulled out of the tents this season for various reasons.
Sephora, another sponsor, will be putting on the first-ever beauty show on Feb. 15 in the Studio space.
“We want to make sure the beauty message is an important part of fashion week,” said Mallis.
While the venues — the Loft, Studio, Pavilion and Tent — will not change in appearance from last season, a redesign of the corridor leading to the Tent and Pavilion showcases will surely be embraced by attendees, Mallis said.
The redo will have the cafe platformed around the Bryant Park fountain, thereby allowing a second corridor to be carved out so that both the Tent and Pavilion will have hallways of their own, which should dispel much of the bottleneck crowding that occurred last season.
Rental prices have stayed steady for most spaces, although the Loft venue increases from $12,000 to $12,500 for Monday through Friday showings and the Studio increases from $18,000 to $18,500 for the same time period.
Two photography exhibits also will be held in conjunction with fashion week: “10 Years of Fashion Photography” will be on display in the lobby of the Conde Nast building at 4 Times Square and open to the public, and “The Next Generation” will be on display in the tents for those attending the shows.

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