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Special Events

Fern Mallis of IMG Fashion on Fashion Week

Fashion Week--the mix of runway shows and showy parties--is spreading throughout the U.S. and abroad. The flagship event, New York's Fashion Week, got its start 14 years ago as 7th on Sixth. Today, the event is staged in Manhattan twice a year where, according to estimates from producer IMG Fashion, it generates more than $235 million for the city each season and draws 100,000 guests from media to retailers to celebrities.

IMG Fashion senior vice president Fern Mallis has overseen the event as it has spread to cities including Los Angeles and Miami, with new shows sprouting in Houston, Chicago and San Francisco this year. Internationally, Fashion Weeks are staged in cities including London, Moscow, Berlin and Sydney. Special Events Magazine chats with Mallis about how she is taking style to the streets:

Special Events Magazine: Is there any attempt to put consistent elements in Fashion Weeks throughout the U.S. and the world, or are they all unique to their own locales? Will the name "Fashion Week" be the unifying brand?
Fern Mallis: "Fashion Week" is not a brand owned by any one company, and so many cities around the world have their own events. We look at our events as a growing necklace, with each event being a "pearl." Each event is unique to its locale, and supports the local design industry. The consistent elements, though, are the quality of our events, the quality of the designers and the increased international exposure we bring.

Q: Specifically on event management issues, what are your must-haves in venues for the shows?
A: Obviously we must have the production capability to produce world-class shows, which means a lot of power, a lot of space and the right infrastructure. We have been able to do a lot of things in existing spaces, but there is nothing like building your own space tailor-made to your needs. There's nothing like the cost of that, though, either; it's something we will always work on.

Q: Given your druthers, would you prefer to use an existing venue or create one with tenting, a la Bryant Park?
A: Creating a special space always gives you so much control--it can really be fabulous. It can be pretty time-consuming, though, and then there is the constant budget debate. It's really up to the individual event's requirements.

Q: Regarding ancillary parties, do you have to ride herd on them in any way, or do you let them go their own way?
A: Our events really focus on the designers' runway shows. There are a million parties during Fashion Week, a lot of which are fabulous and help to build the excitement. Sometimes it does seem to distract a little bit from the business at hand, but we always end up with great shows and great front rows, and so I think it adds more than it takes away.

For the complete interview, see the June issue of Special Events Magazine.

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