Economy doesn't curb Fashion Week

NEW YORK — Fashion is among the first industries to be affected by a slow economy, yet, in this downturn, a record number of shows are planned for New York Fashion Week, which starts Friday.

Up-and-coming designers consider a splashy runway show an investment in the future, with a price tag easily topping $100,000. To get to the catwalk, many are using volunteer models, staging shows outside or soliciting unconventional sponsors.

Venues cost between $25,000 and $50,000, and there are the costs for models, invitations, show producers and even food backstage.

As expensive as these productions are, the designers couldn't afford the media exposure and access to taste-makers that Fashion Week offers any other way.

For each collection, Designer Jason Wu says, he wonders whether the label can afford the show without putting the business in jeopardy, but there's equal risk in not doing a show and falling off the fashion radar.

Economic woes could even help young talent this season, says Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion. She says retailers will be hunting fresh, new styles that will bring customers into stores.

"Maybe you have friends walking the runway or you're paying with clothes, but they are getting their show up and they're getting their name out there and on the same lists as Michael Kors or Diane von Furstenberg," Mallis says.