Pinching Pennies: Designer Runways Take Budget Route

It’s chic to be fashionably frugal. While fashion spectacles still can run over $500,000, the days of extravagant spending are more or less on the wane.

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He said his sales in 2002 rose by 25 percent and revenue in the first three months of this year rose by 15 percent. Small fashion companies might opt for presentations instead of shows, Di Sarli said, but bigger industry players can’t afford to scale back show expenses.

"Right now, if anything, they are investing more in their image," he said.

Others painted a similar picture. A firm that does lighting for some top shows said that it’s "business as usual" in Europe. "The houses want to have a good, image-enhancing show." On the other hand, the firm noted that fashion houses in New York had been more budget conscious and had driven a hard bargain. "They’ve been more directly influenced by what’s happening in the world right now."

Whatever one believes, it appears that Europe’s smaller fashion names are tightening their belts the most. One Paris-based public relations agent said he had been scampering to pinch pennies for his stable of designers. Among the cost-cutting measures he explored this season were finding less-expensive venues and shaving costs off makeup and models.

"In recent seasons, there were a lot of sponsors that jumped on the fashion wagon," he continued. "Being part of a hot designer’s show was a way for them to get press and enhance their image. This season, though, sponsors haven’t been so forthcoming. They had extra money, but with the economy in the state it is, they’ve been tightening their belts. They don’t have the money to throw around."

Paris press agents who work with emerging designers point out that they always watch how much they spend on shows.

"We’re not talking about the mega-productions some of the big houses do," said one agent, again speaking on condition of anonymity. "We’re not changing anything, really. To control costs more than we do already would be close to impossible."

Another agent in Paris expressed similar sentiments. "Let’s just say we’re not spending less than usual. But we’re not spending more than usual, either." The agent pointed out that some of the most costly aspects of staging a show include hair, makeup and models. "We can limit costs to about $35,000 for a show," the agent said. "As for models, many of my designers get girls to walk their shows for free, or a reduced fee, just because the girl loves the designer. That type of behavior used to be even more prevalent. A model like Pat Cleveland used to cry to be in certain shows. But that passion for fashion is fading. It’s pure business for most of the girls."
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