Concierge Services Help the Rich Buy Their Way Into Fashion Week
By Heidi Patalano
LINCOLN CENTER — You don’t have to be rich and famous to get into Fashion Week. Just rich is fine.
Mercedes-Benz and American Express may be the most visible sponsors of New York’s Fashion Week, but wealthy individuals buying their way backstage are also keeping runway shows afloat.
High-end concierge services broker deals that allow well-heeled clients to access runway shows, after-parties and private previews of designer collections. The clients’ payment for admittance comes in the form of huge purchases from a designer’s line –or even picking up the tab for a show’s after-party.
“Everything’s for sale,” said Steve Sims, founder of luxury concierge service Bluefish. His company was the official concierge of New York Fashion Week in 2002 and 2003. Today, he continues to get his clients into fashion events across New York City.
His company has gone as far to arrange a private “mini-Fashion Week” at a New York hotel where seven up-and-coming designers showed off their wares to the employees of a Mexican bank, he said. Another client paid to have his daughter walk the runway for an emerging designers’ show.
Sims said that most of his Fashion Week clientele hails from Asia, Australia and Europe. American clients from Dallas, Chicago and Boston, too, get Sims’ company to find them front-row seats at the hottest shows.
For the internationals, the concierges build a weeklong itinerary around Fashion Week, including chauffeur-driven cars, restaurant bookings and red carpet events.
Rachel McIntyre, found of luxury concierge service Black Door Experiences, said that while booking a seat at one fashion show may not be extremely costly, most of the experiences she provides for her clients cost somewhere in “the upper hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
While many of McIntyre’s clients come from overseas, a good portion are flying in from Columbus, Ohio, she said.
“Columbus is, unbeknownst to most people, a huge city where there’s a lot of huge corporate fashion brands [Abercrombie and DSW and the Limited Brands],” she said.
McIntyre and Sims both said that services such as theirs work for those who don’t have the time to arrange the complicated logistics themselves.
“Having all the money in the world doesn’t suddenly mean you get a Rolodex on your doorstep,” Sims said. “You may not know who to call to get into Ralph Lauren. You may not konw how to get into 1Oak. So they join a company like mine and we know those phone numbers.”
One of McIntyre’s customers, a co-founder and CTO of a multi-million dollar IT company out of Portland, Ore., described the experience of having McIntyre open doors to the fashion week experience.
“We have always been interested in participating in events surrounding the fashion industry and Fashion Week, but thought you had to be an insider to gain access,” said the client, who wished to remain anonymous.
“My wife and I met Rachel through a friend of a friend and she was able to get us access to shows and seats that were only for industry insiders. These were tickets that were not for sale to the public. It was amazing!”
McIntyre said that engaging her clients is a savvy move for the designers.
“I am literally bringing clients and putting them in your hands to build business and build revenue,” she said.
“Why is Donna Karan doing meet-and-greets with my clients? Because my clients are spending $40,000 on Donna Karan’s clothes.”
One of McIntyre’s vendors is Seventh House PR, which represents Charlotte Ronson and Alon Livne, among others. Lauren Bochner, who handles special projects for the company, said the designers want to cultivate goodwill with customers, as well as financial benefits, through the meet-and-greets she arranges with McIntyre’s clients.
“It’s good for the designers because obviously they need money for various projects,” she said. “We set up cocktail parties where designers get to meet with [concierge clients] and shop with them … They can build a lifelong clientele from that.”
Sims said that publicists often leverage their lesser known designers against the bigger names they also represent.
“We may work with the public relations department of that designer who says ‘Look, I’ll give you X if you promote Y for me,’ she said.
“That agency may look after four designers. One of them’s the golden egg that you want, but the other three aren’t getting any traction. You say ‘Look, help get us some good seats for these people and I’ll give you this,’ and we go, ‘OK!'” he said.