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2009 April 1

Costume Institute Watch!

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(NEW YORK) The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute gala is only four weeks away, but come May 4, the Vogue/ Marc Jacobs-sponsored "Model as Muse" gala will experience seismic shifts.

The 700-person dinner is usually heavily populated by fashion houses, which fashion bible Vogue and its editrix Anna Wintour pointedly invite to purchase a table. They are usually sold out well in advance of the event date. The cost for tables varies from $75,000 to $250,000 depending on the size of each particular brand as well as its relationship with the magazine. This season, sources say that a redistribution of wealth is underway, even at the charity table, as more profitable brands are asked to shoulder greater costs than their struggling competitors. A representative for the Costume Institute declined to comment on ticket sales and their dynamics.

Understandably, the current state of the economy has impacted event budgets, and charities are the first to suffer. Consequently, many A-list fashion houses find themselves saying no to what was in past years a command performance: the full-table sponsorship. Instead, those who can still afford it are buying individual seats, which range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the location. Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Gucci, YSL and Alberta Ferretti are just some of the brands who have declined to sponsor tables this season, unlike in previous years.

With Marc Jacobs the co-chair of the event, there is little doubt that LVMH (which owns 96% of Jacobs' brand) will purchase tables for some of its houses such as Donna Karan, Celine, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Givenchy. Calvin Klein will  sponsor a table, as it has done consistently, as will Tod's and Puig Fashion Group. As for Ralph Lauren? "We of course will be supporting the event--[we're] still not sure at what level yet," said a representative via email.

And the table is only the first six-digit expenditure when it comes to the "East Coast Oscars," as the gala has been affectionately dubbed. Flying in the celebrities who will wear the designers' creations on the red carpet, footing the hotel bills for the stars and their entourages; the endless hair, makeup and car services--it's no wonder that brands are hesitant to sign on as retail stocks continue to dive and their client base loses sleep over their projected after-tax income for 2009.
ASHLEY BAKER




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