The $7k a Minute Event: The True Price of a New York Fashion Week Runway Show

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The most coveted time of the year is now complete. The cameras flashed, the models strutted and celebrity faces lined the front rows of New York Fashion Week. The fashion-conscious took in the newest trends from beneath the runway while getting ready to purchase their next season’s wardrobe. However, there are some at NYFW that have already emptied their wallets—the designers. NYFW is an incredible source of profit for the city. Each year, the legendary event earns $850 million for New York, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation and reported by the International Business Times. By comparison the Super Bowl hosted at MetLife Stadium drew in half of that number. This comes to about $7,000 a minute, even more astonishing considering that shows regularly last 15 minutes. These colossal figures do not come easy. Designers at NYFW can expect to spend $100,000 to show at the bare minimum, ranging up to $1 million for prominent brands committed to presenting a true performance.


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Marc Jacobs is one acclaimed designer who does not blink when it comes to dramatically showcasing his fashion. At his fall 2011 show, he spent $1 million; this year, he opted for something slightly less grandiose: a large, purple farmhouse and plushy violet runway for his utilitarian collection. Aspiring designers, however, attempt to save their pennies after sometimes committing their life savings to show at NYFW. Taking a great gamble in their spending, there is no guarantee that designers will later reap the benefits of having stores buy their merchandise and then being able to successfully sell it to customers. Dao-Yi Chow, co-founder of the menswear line Public School with Maxwell Osborne, told theHuffington Post, “In order for us to make money, we have to sell to the stores, and then the stores have to sell to the customers. All of that is a linear progression: We present; we get press; the buzz starts; the buyers come; and then hopefully the customers buy the clothes. All of that starts with the presentation.” Showing is even more imperative for designers who need a certain style of backdrop to accurately showcase their work. Ray, a menswear designer known for his Brooks Brothers collaborations, told the Huffington Post, “When I send a tie to an individual editor or a store, all they see is the tie. But here they see my world: It’s a rendering of my vision and my culture.” Venue choice is one of the most imperative assets for the branding of a label, bit it can also be one of the most expensive. Venues range between $15,000 and $60,000, the priciest being the Theater at Lincoln Center, the largest venue at NYFW. Another expensive venue includes the New York Public Library, a historical locale that commands a $50,000 starting price. Sometimes, designers can save by selecting a more obscure venue, but even this is not guaranteed. Ralph Lauren, for example, creates a unique space at Skylight Studios each season where a custom space is created after two to three weeks of labor, which does not come cheap.


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In the past, standard models were a bargain expense as they were frequently paid in merchandise. However, following the work of organizations such as the Model Alliance, which advocates for real payment, brands must now pay their models in monetary values. Smaller labels will pay $150 per model while larger brands will pay $200 to $1000 for a non-celebrity model. With 10 to 20 models working in an average show, this can get expensive, and some international brands will pay as much as $200,000 for all of their models. International celebrities used to line the front rows of every big-name fashion show and cost a hefty price. Today, designers rarely opt to recruit front-row celebrity attendees for their shows. If they do, their payment depends on their attendance at other shows, how much the celebrity ‘fits’ the image of the brand, how often their photos get published and how famous they are. Rihanna was paid $100,000 to attend Karl Lagerfeld’s show in 2010, one of the higher celebrity paychecks in NYFW history. A B-list fashion icon may receive closer to $15,000 or solely be paid in clothes, travel and accommodations. Backstage beauty is one of the few things that comes inexpensively to designers. A brand can actually get paid between $5,000 and $15,000 to showcase beauty products on their models. Other beauty brands, such as Maybelline, will provide their services for free as it most likely did for Lacoste this year, since it can be seen as a publicity act. Otherwise, teams of makeup artists can charge $5,000 to $100,000 per show.

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Styling is another expense that can be very cheap or very expensive depending on the budget of the designer. Some designers choose to style a show by themselves, while others will hire an accomplished stylist for up to $8,000 a day for an average of two weeks. Designers can also hire a less inexperienced stylist for around $10,000. So how much does it cost to show at NYFW? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, it greatly depends on the preferences and budget of the designer. Regardless, in today’s cutthroat world of fashion, it is near impossible to showcase for less than six figures. However, from up-and-comers to established cornerstones of fashion week, a memorable show is imperative for success in the fashion business.


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