Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid, pictured September 10, 2017, walks the runway for Prabal Gurung during New York Fashion Week. Getty Images

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has become a major business venture — a chance for designers to demonstrate their creative visions and a vital money-making opportunity, too.

NYFW emerged in 1943 as Press Week by way of legendary fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, creator of the International Best-Dressed List. International Management Group (IMG) now serves as NYFW's official organizer. IMG operates the showcase: securing venues, acquiring sponsors and providing full production services to brands, among other duties. However, every intricate detail from preparation, model castings and the runway shows themselves are executed by the brands.

"It is the perfect combination of art and commerce," James LaForce, CEO of LaForce PR, told International Business Times. "Some things make perfect sense and follow a playbook. Other things are a complete surprise and come out of nowhere. It's what makes it so fun."

Any designer that wants to partake in NYFW can do so. The challenge is to secure CFDA recognition on the official NYFW calendar. Brands typically apply at least two months in advance to secure a featured calendar listing.

"The various NYFW organizing bodies try to accommodate every designer's request. That said, there are only so many hours in the day," LaForce said. "If every designer had their choice, they would show late morning or in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. That means everyone is competing for the same time slot."

"The major brands that have been showing for many seasons and years tend to get priority on the calendar," Jane Lerman, the CEO and Founder of L.E.R. Public Relations, told IBT. "Newer brands are usually slotted in around these established brands to ensure there are no conflicts for the top tier buyers and press who attend the majority of the shows."

Putting on a successful show can be costly for brands, especially those that are working with a smaller budget. The most basic show costs anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000, but the budget can increase for big-name brands with extra cushion to play with.

"Some brands, like the major fashion houses with very large marketing budgets, can spend several hundred thousand dollars, sometimes nearing or going over the $1 million mark," Lerman said. "The budget is really determined by the venue and the type of models booked for the show."

New York City reaps the benefits of NYFW. State Senator Brad Hoylman said NYFW adds nearly $900 million to the city's economy, according to a 2015 press release. The event may reel in tourists worldwide, but where the show is presented can also benefit local businesses.

"The business model now in New York is that more shows are showing in unique off-site venues and that makes the entire city the 'official' fashion week venue,'" Lerman said. "Designers today can choose to do presentations at hotels, at photo studios, in privately owned lofts, on rooftops, in restaurants, and even in parks. So what ends up happening is that all of NYC benefits business-wise from NYFW."

Lerman added, "The week brings in a ton of travelers from all over the world, making it a great time for hotels, local shops and restaurants, cab drivers, and beyond. It also brings a great deal of PR and social media exposure to various places in the city, making people far and wide excited about New York."

Tadashi Shoji, who has been in the business for 35 years, told IBT, "I'm a businessman, so I have to think about money, budget and stuff like that — we are not a billion dollar company." Shoji's Spring/Summer 2018 line incorporates the beach and blue sky to create a Southern California vibe. "This is advertisement and promotion, and we have to show it to the media and buyers… Then, how much is budget? How much is exposure? Those kinds of stuff, if you don't figure it out, I don't think you can continue this kind of business."

Shoji said the key to success in the fashion industry is determining a clear path for the brand.

"You have to think about what kind of direction you're going to go," Shoji said. "If you do it too expensive, then it's not accessible to everybody. If it's too commercial, then it's going to be boring."

It's also important to see what's going on around you — and move quickly. "You can feel something is coming; you have to catch it," Shoji said. "If you don't catch it, you’ll have [a] problem."

"I've been in China doing different shows; Paris and Korea as well. New York Fashion Week is the most commercialized and it's the most known for fashion," designer Jia Liu, whose latest parent-child collection uses travel as its inspiration, told IBT. "It means a lot to come over and show what I have. I've learned quite a lot."

Liu didn't want to talk about the budget for her show. The Beijing native, who believes fashion is "like artwork and commercial," told IBT: "I spend most of my energy, labor, time [on the show]…this is more important than the money."

Fashion Week is a key time for models as well as designers.

"A model can book anywhere from no shows to more than 20 during New York Fashion Week," a representative from The Society Management, the agency that represents Kendall Jenner, told IBT. "Though it seems like they are only on each runway for a few minutes, what is typically not seen is how many additional hours might be involved for the fitting, hair and makeup, and countless other appointments in between each show."

Models attend several castings throughout Manhattan a few days before NYFW starts. Casting appointments can extend into the early days of NYFW, too. Models will not only meet with casting directors but also stylists and designers.

"After a detailed selection process by the brand's team, the chosen models for the show are scheduled for fittings, where each look in the collection is tailored to its correlating model, and soon after the clothes will be presented on the runway," The Society Management added.

For models selected to walk the catwalk, the payout isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Unless the model is a household name like Giselle Bündchen or Kendall Jenner, the payment could be minuscule. Models are often paid in designer clothing, but the average paycheck is $48,130 for the week.

The highest paid models earned a combined total of $154 million last year, according to Forbes. Bündchen was the highest supermodel at $30.5 million, followed by Adriana Lima at $10.5 million and Jenner earning $10 million, respectively.

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