How Much Does It Actually Cost to Put On a NYFW Show?

This is an edition of the newsletter Show Notes, in which Samuel Hine reports from the front row of the spring and fall fashion weeks. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

That’s a wrap on New York Fashion Week, where every seat at nearly every show I attended had a little surprise on it, ranging from a Voss water to a Farmacy advertisement to a flask half-filled with Don Julio 1942 (thanks, I guess?). These were the marks of corporate sponsors, which is one of the main ways independent designers—who make up the bulk of the schedule at NYFW—can pull off ambitious runway presentations.

Going into NYFW SS24, which technically started with Peter Do’s debut at Helmut Lang last Thursday and ended with Luar’s Bushwick blowout late on Wednesday—but which actually stretched into a 10-day affair complete with a pop-up Chanel diner, a slightly dubious Victoria’s Secret comeback, a semi-secret Hermès men’s show, and more dinners and club nights than the human body and spirit is meant to endure—the talk of the town was how few names were on the official CFDA-controlled schedule. According to the Business of Fashion, over 100 designers were on the calendar last September; this year, that number is around 70.

The main factor keeping designers away, according to several I spoke with, is the sheer cost.

Which made me wonder: what kind of budget do you need to put on a runway show? And is it worth it?

Hari Nef at the Helmut Lang Spring 2024 Ready To Wear Runway Show at Skylight at Essex Crossing on September 8, 2023 in New York, New York. (Photo by Dolly Faibyshev/WWD via Getty Images)

WWD/Getty Images

Prices, of course, vary by size. In February, Elena Velez put on a scrappy breakthrough show at a Brooklyn warehouse that cost around $40,000, as she told the New York Times. Bigger productions go up exponentially from there.

On the high end, shows can run in the many millions of dollars. But the majority of NYFW shows—ones that deliver impressive but not over-the-top visuals, casts, front rows, and music—come in somewhere in the middle. “$300,000, minimum,” said Peter Do. “$400,000, easily,” said Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada. “Half a million bucks,” one prominent menswear designer, contemplating a return to the runway, told me. Another menswear name who has been absent from NYFW confided that even a simple presentation can run you into the low six figures. “But that was, like, eight years ago,” he said. “I’m sure it’s much higher now.”

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