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Fashion Week Gets Homespun Sponsors; McDonald's, QVC Lured In For The Money

USA TODAY, February 13, 2009

By Theresa Howard

While mass market brands like QVC and McDonald's don't have the cachet that's typical of New York's Fashion Week, they do have something that's even more critical this year: the cash.

Hurt by the recession, Fashion Week has enlisted household brands including QVC to boost revenue after a handful of designers pulled out of the show that begins today.

The shop-at-home network, Mattel and McDonald's are for the first time at the haute couture affair that influences the fashions that will be in stores this fall.

Vacancies "opened up slots for others," says Zach Eichman, spokesman for IMG, which owns and organizes Fashion Week. "People could see it as low-brow. But we're connecting these brands with the fashion industry in different ways. And ultimately, those brands interact with consumers who spend money."

McDonald's will pay an undisclosed amount to be the official coffee supplier, while QVC and Mattel are among the official 64 designers to pay upwards of $100,000 to be on the runway. Participants pay up to $50,000 to be in the show, and up to $75,000 more to produce their shows.

Being part of the event can add prestige to products, no matter how low-brow they seem to be.

"It's a demographic that many marketers want to align with," says William Chipps, editor of sponsorship tracker IEG. "Affluent, trend-setters and fashionistas offer a lot of appeal to many brands."

QVC will broadcast a live two-hour segment, including a runway show, on Saturday before 150 area QVC customers and celebrities. Models will strut wearing items priced at $30 to $120 that will be on sale as the show airs. Items include a military jacket with ruffles and faux snakeskin clutches.

"We extend the exposure of Fashion Week brand in addition to building our brand," says Mike George, CEO for QVC. "It has mutual benefits for both parties."

QVC will promote its Fashion Week frenzy on the network and website with segments by celebrity stylist Lori Goldstein reporting on show trends.

Other brand activity:

*McDonald's will offer free 12-ounce espresso drinks in a 400-square-foot lounge to promote its McCafe coffee bars in the New York area.

"This is a perfect venue to make this kind of splash," says Sofia Therios, marketing director.

*Mattel has tapped 50 designers, including Nicole Miller and Vera Wang, to celebrate Barbie's 50 years. Models will wear the outfits that will then be displayed at Bloomingdale's.

Title sponsor Mercedes-Benz isn't upset over the additions.

"Brands that want to up their luxury quotient will associate their brand with luxury events or products," says Lisa Holladay, director of brand experience."