New York Fashion Week Mixes Business With Pleasure

New York Fashion Week is just as much about business as it is about pleasure.

Real-estate firms, shipping companies, insurance entities and even beer makers are making the most of this week’s glamorous event, trading power lunches and sporting events for the tents of Bryant Park to reach customers. Companies involved in the show view it as an ideal way to sell their products, create some buzz and reach the much-coveted women’s market.

“Lots of times companies look to fashion to get name marketing,’’ said Robyn Berkley, a public relations executive at New York’s People’s Revolution, which is working with participants Budweiser and Fiji Water. ‘’They want to be cool’’ and fashion week attendees are a ‘’high-level inspirational group.’’

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That’s the motivation behind W Hotel’s sponsorship of the VIP tent. For the first time, the New York-high-end hotelier is using Fashion Week to showcase a luxury residential property called W New York Downtown Hotel & Residence. As a sponsor of the VIP tent, W is giving the “beautiful people” a glimpse of the building, which will have units selling for $1 million and up. The hotel is also luring visitors to the tent with freebies including drinks, food and iPod desk speakers.

With its participation in Fashion Week, W is betting people care as must about their digs as their threads.

“Real estate is a luxury brand. It’s not four walls, a kitchen and a bathroom,’’ said Michael Shvo, founder of SHVO, which is marketing the property for W. “People are buying a home the same way they are buying a car or a Chanel bag.’’

Some marketers set up shop at the event on the notion that when fashion is in the spotlight, women are abound.

“It’s a new way for Met Life to connect with women in a more creative manner,’’ said Beth Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer at Met Life in New York, a company where more than half of the individual insurance policy holders are women.

The cornerstone of Met Life’s promotion is a fashion show incorporating the work of nearly 20 designers, who created garments inspired by the Peanuts characters. The garments will be auctioned off on eBay next month. The insurer also has kiosks set up at its booth that enables visitors to go online to buy a limited edition silk scarf. Proceeds from the sale of the scarf and garments go to Dress For Success, a charity that provides interview suits to low-income women.

St. Louis-based Busch, for its part, is sponsoring GRAND, a venue right outside of Bryant Park that will showcase international up-and-coming designers. The aim is to create some buzz around its high-end Budweiser Select beer.

At first blush, shipping company DHL wouldn’t seem like an obvious fit for Fashion Week, but the company says that spending millions of dollars to be the official express delivery and logics provider at the show will indeed pay in the long run.

‘’From zippers to bolts of fabric, everything is made around the globe and (DHL) wants to help transport that,’’ said Karen Jones, DHL’s senior vice president of corporate and marketing communications. ‘’It makes sense right off the bat because of how big the (fashion) industry is.’’

In addition to being the shipper, the company, in partnership with designer Zac Posen, unveiled a $400 red and yellow handbag (DHL’s colors) with the DHL logo inside. Proceeds from the handbag, which can be purchased online at, will go to Teachers Count, which provides resources for teachers.

With all the corporations associated with Fashion Week it’s sure to raise the ire of some purists who want to keep fashion free from marketers. But one veteran fashionista says that’s not a reality.

“Sponsorships sound like a dirty word,’’ but they are necessary, said Fern Mallis, SVP of IMG Fashion.