Jul 24, 2009 at 07:18 PM
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Fashion Week '09: A Question of Cash or Caché?

Last week we reported that Maybelline had been named the official cosmetics sponsor of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Yesterday, last year's official cosmetics sponsor, M*A*C announced their intention to do their own show, outside of the tents, at the super chic, 80,000 square foot Milk Studios space in the Meatpacking District.

Maybelline has a more affordable price point than M*A*C, and whereas IMG originally started Fashion Week with a slate of high-end endemic fashion brands, we've recently seen an infusion of mass market value brands like QVC, UPS and Mcdonald's inside the tents. Perhaps this a sign of the economic times? Last year, according to the city, the two Fashion Week events drew 232,000 attendees and generated $466 million in visitor spending. At the same time, many fashion houses have started concurrently staging their own fashion show soirees at hipster venues, outside of the tents - and the official Fashion Week designation.

M*A*C and Milk will host runway shows, presentations, special events and other creative activities during New York Fashion Week, September 10th-17th. M*A*C and Milk will offer designers multilayered support including; space for their shows, presentations and press appointments.

Estee Lauder Group President John Demsey, commented, "As a longtime supporter of New York Fashion Week, M*A*C is proud to take its advocacy to the next level with this initiative. The M*A*C brand celebrates fashion and encourages creativity. We are delighted to help bring the vision of these talented designers to fruition."

There's no doubt that Maybelline, a unit of cosmetics giant L'Oreal, and M*A*C, under the corporate umbrella of Estee Lauder, both have the bankroll that it takes to sponsor high-profile events like Fashion Week. This year's event may be more a question of cash, or cache. As Fashion Week has exponentially grown in awareness, has it left some of the prized cache that allowed them to draw top dollar from leading high-end brands at the door? As mass-market sponsors start entering the tents, will some of the up-market brands head for the exits? For an industry in many cases marketed around the idea of image and exclusivity, these are the things that keep brand and PR managers up at night. Big box retailers are popping up too, literally. Last September, Target opened up four pop-up stores in the vicinity. In past years, "the house of Wal-Mart" has brought "cheap chic" inside the tents. Would it be a surprise to see more of this, given the retailers preference for brands that cough up co-marketing dollars?

So what do you think: does it still make strategic sense for exclusive, up-market brands to be in the park or is it a better strategic move to head downtown to a more exclusive off-site experience, as M*A*C and many others have done in recent years? Has the value of an official and exclusive Fashion Week designation changed over time?