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DESIGN NOTES

Live from New York

Twice a year, designers from the United States and abroad gather in Manhattan to unveil their collections for the season six months down the road.

So how big is the nine-day marathon known as Fashion Week, which concludes today?

Consider these numbers: More than 90 fashion shows were staged in either specially erected tents in Bryant Park, which borders 42nd Street, or off-site. Ten to 13 shows were held per day. In addition, some 1,700 members of the press registered to attend, including 600 photographers who shot some 2.5 million rolls of film, according to 7th on Sixth Inc., which formed in 1993 to organize and centralize the collections.

Other statistics: It took 400 people 12 days to set up the Bryant Park tents. The average show lasted 17 minutes. And the audience was a thirsty lot: some 96,000 bottles of Evian, one of the event's sponsors, was expected to be consumed during Fashion Week.

Front row watch

New York Fashion Week always attracts its share of actresses and actors. This week was no exception.

Spotted here at various men's and women's fashion shows the past nine days: Tori Spelling, Teri Hatcher, Angie Harmon, Dylan McDermott, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Stephen Baldwin.

No place like home

The American fashion scene may be rooted in New York, but that's not to say there are no Buffalo connections.

Everyone who attends Fashion Week knows Fern Mallis, who graduated from the University at Buffalo in 1969 with a degree in fine arts. She's executive director of 7th on Sixth Inc.

Her fashion advice for women: "Buy a good pair of boots. You need them eight months out of the year in Buffalo."

Patty Hughes, volunteer coordinator, is also from Buffalo. Her job: To prescreen the 500 volunteers - mostly college students - needed to keep things running smoothly. Volunteers, dressed in black T-shirts, distribute press materials; guide show-goers to their seats; pick up discarded Evian bottles after the shows, and so on.

And pop artist Peter Max, who attended the Thomas Steinbruck fashion show at the BMW showroom Sunday morning, said that his wife, Mary Balkin, is from Buffalo. They married in 1997.

"The first day I saw her, I said to my friend, "I'm marrying that woman,' " said Max.

Car talk

Speaking of BMW and other fancy cars, the connection between fashion and automobiles is growing. New York Fashion Week is now called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, after its title sponsor; 7th on Sixth made that announcement in January.

Designer Thomas Steinbruck held his show in the BMW flagship store on 57th Street, where guests could check out the jazzy BMW Z9 concept car before the fashion show. BMW sponsors Steinbruck, an award-winning designer who apprenticed with Christian Dior and Geoffrey Beene.

Former Supreme Mary Wilson, a friend and neighbor of the designer, also attended. She noted that Steinbruck once designed a gown for her.

And for a fashion event called Fashion in Focus, a cooperative effort between Hachette Filipacchi Magazines and Ford Motor Co., enterprising designers were invited to create clothing out of car parts.

Some of the results: A mini skirt and matching handbag woven from seat belts; a puffy jacket crafted from air bags, and a belt designed from gears linked together and slung over hot pants.

Vroom, vroom.

Final word

"The only women who wear open-toe shoes in the wintertime are those with drivers."

One show-goer to another during New York Fashion Week

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