Fashionistas are up in arms over plans to sell the 7th on Sixth fashion shows to sports giant IMG.
Though details of the deal have yet to be worked out, industry insiders are afraid that costs for showing in the tents will increase while the level of exclusivity will decrease.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced Monday they had entered into an agreement to sell its 7th on Sixth Inc. show production division to IMG, a corporate conglomerate best known for its sports and entertainment events and representation.
In addition, Fern Mallis, executive director of the CFDA and 7th on Sixth, will quit the CFDA and join IMG. Executives David Caruso and Lynn Longendyke are also expected to join Mallis at IMG. CFDA president Stan Herman also has negotiated a separate consulting contract with IMG, it was reported.
A source who works with young designers is apprehensive about the sale. "Keeping costs at the level they are at now for designers is really key. It is so expensive - too expensive to represent the different levels of designers," the source said. "Its sad for the fashion industry to lose the exclusivity and creativeness to become commercial."
However, 7th on Sixth's level of commercialism has been on the rise in past seasons. "For the past two seasons, major designers have pulled out and random shows like 102 Dalmatians or the Portugal group were added," said Mauricio Padilha, principal of MAO Public Relations. MAO clients Liz Collins and Fausto Puglisi, both hotly anticipated shows, will be held off-site, because "it's hipper and cooler," Padilha said. "This season more than ever, people have had to go out to other spaces."
"I don't know why designers would want to go into the tents," said a source that shows off-site. "I'm not sure what an IMG 7th on Sixth can offer to lure shows to the tents that the CFDA doesn't offer now." This source was turned off to the tents because of price and attitude. "It is very expensive and the packages 7th on Sixth offers designers with smaller businesses feel small and after-thought-ish."
Mallis countered, "It is no one's intention to make [showing at the tents] a hardship for designers. We provide the show venues for the designers at a not big expense." In the future with IMG, she said, "We hope to come up with more benefits."
Corporate sponsors of 7th on Sixth believe this could be a good arrangement, but they are apprehensive.
"IMG will have to walk a fine line to keep top designers in this forum," said long-time sponsor Lisa Herbert, senior vice-president of Pantone's home and fashion division. "If they lose the top designers, IMG will not have much to work with."
Kai Rosenthal, vice-president, Schieffelin & Somerset, parent company of Moet & Chandon, believes the change will bring more professionalism.
"They [IMG] are business people in it to make money," said Rosenthal. She cited her recent negotiations with IMG on behalf of 7th on Sixth. "They were reasonable to work with and easy to negotiate with."
"Bringing more structure and business acumen to the sponsorship process might help. Its a positive for us all, even the designers - we're all in it to make money." However, Rosenthal added, "If it is going to be more expensive and we're going to be getting the same deal, its going to be difficult."
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