Trend Watch: Fashion Week gets hot

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As designers and the fashion industry assume bigger roles in mainstream entertainment and marketing channels, this week's "7th on Sixth" runway shows in Manhattan will reach a record audience.

Conde Nast's Vogue is setting up giant TV screens in Bryant Park, allowing thousands of consumers to see live coverage of invitation-only fashion shows for free. The first-time effort also includes using the screens to beam promotional commercials and fashion footage from Vogue's advertisers into the crowd.

"The definition of fashion has broadened and it's playing a bigger role in the culture, including the way our homes and cars look," said Tom Florio, VP-publisher of Vogue. "These events have always been closed to the public, but consumers want to be part of it," he said.

Advertisers participating in Vogue's live effort include St. John Knits, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Clairol, Grey Goose vodka and Viacom's VH1, among others.

In the second year of a three-year title sponsorship of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the automaker will display cars on-site, and has expanded last year's tie-in with Saks Fifth Avenue. Mercedes will place special designer's versions of its CLK500 coupe in 61 Saks stores nationwide for a special shopping event from Sept. 18 to 23, as part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Fashion Targets Breast Cancer effort.

The designer car, part of a growing trend among upscale automakers, includes customized trim, a cashmere blanket and Saks-branded floormats, from Baldessarini by Hugo Boss. Iman, the model, is spokeswoman for the Mercedes event.

Gruner & Jahr's YM magazine is inviting selected readers and celebrities to its expanded "MegaDenim" fashion show, co-sponsored by jeans designers including Levi Strauss & Co., Dollhouse and Guess? Last year, the event generated millions of dollars of general publicity and boosted fashion ad pages, said Publisher Laura McEwen.

"Fashion is fusing with lifestyle and music, and mainstream teenagers are now taking designers very personally," Ms. McEwen said.

Conde Nast's Allure has been so pleased by the success of its "Allure Backstage" TV coverage of fashion shows on cable TV's "E" since last year that the magazine is exploring offering sponsors a print-and-TV package when Fashion Week makes its biannual return next spring, said a magazine spokesman.

LPI's Out magazine, with co-sponsor Vox vodka, is also drawing a record crowd of more than 600 fashion insiders and celebrities to its Voices of Style & Design Award on Sept. 19, honoring Todd Oldham for his success on Viacom's MTV and his hot-selling line of housewares for the college crowd at Target Corp.

"Younger consumers, both men and women, have a high degree of interest in fashion and designers, so it's only natural that mainstream audiences want to get closer to what fashion insiders see," said Mr. Florio.

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