New York Fashion Week (search) opens Wednesday with Kenneth Cole in his traditional lead-off spot with Alan Cumming (search), Ludacris, novelist Brian Keith Jackson and Olympic track and field stars Derrick Peterson and Anthony Famiglietti expected in the front row.

Other designers previewing their spring 2005 collections for retailers, editors and other fashion fans over the next eight days include Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Zac Posen, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan.

Tommy Hilfiger (search) is back with his better sportswear H Hilfiger collection after sitting out last season and, for the first time, rebel design team Imitation of Christ is joining the fashion mainstream at the Bryant Park tents. Meanwhile, eveningwear designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka are absent from the schedule that includes more than 80 shows.

Los Angeles-based designer Monique Lhuillier, who has made a name for herself making wedding gowns and red-carpet dresses for Hollywood starlets, is staging her fourth runway presentation Friday. "It doesn't get easier, but you learn how to deal with the pressure a little better."

She said this ready-to-wear collection will be "white and crisp — very fresca."

The Labor Day holiday, coupled with the monthlong vacation that most European fabric-makers take during August, makes for a mad rush once the tents go up. "The design process starts early, really right after last season's show, but it's always a short deadline for Fashion Week. It's the nature of the business," Lhuillier told the Associated Press.

Lhuillier, who brings four seamstresses with her from California, spent Tuesday casting models and doing a test-run of hair and makeup. "I'm looking for healthy looking girls, fresh looking with a little bit of a tan and a glow — girls who can look relaxed."

The clothes, of course, are crucial to Fashion Week, but celebrities are increasingly becoming a regular fixture, too.

Katie Couric, Iman and Nia Vardalos are expected at Bryant Park to announce a partnership between the fashion industry, Fashion Week title sponsor Olympus and the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.

Meanwhile, Cotton Inc. invited cast members of "All My Children" and top models such as Daria Werbowy backstage to learn to knit.

Mischa Barton (search) of TV's "The O.C" will keep a blog of her favorite fashion looks for AOL and Saks Fifth Avenue is hosting a party in honor of photographer Patrick McMullan's fashion insider book "In-Tents."

Conde Nast Media Group is sponsoring the "Fashion Rocks" concert Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall with performances by Beyonce, Usher, Hoobastank and Black Eyed Peas.

Sean "P.Diddy" Combs, who won the Council of Fashion Designers of America award for best menswear designer earlier this year, is missing from the catwalk but he's reminding the stylish crowd that his fashion brand is getting bigger: He's hosting a champagne toast at his brand new flagship Sean John store, located just down the street from Bryant Park.