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Aspen gets fashionable with events funding

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – As “Fashion Week” kicks off Sunday, organizers are planting the $15,000 in seed money given to them by the city of Aspen as a way to grow the event, which is in its second year.Lisa Johnson, the founder of what will be a four-day event this week, estimates that 500 people a day will attend a host of activities held at various locations around town.Fashion Week is a destination event designed to showcase and market winter resort, ski and technical outerwear. There will be two slopeside runway events daily at the base of Aspen Mountain, daily aprs ski fashion shows, in-store presentations, on-mountain events and late night parties.The Aspen City Council believed in Fashion Week enough to kick in $15,000, which was allocated last fall as part of an “economic stimulus” funding effort. The council set aside $200,000 to put toward a host of new or existing special events. The goal is that the events will drive tourism, fuel the local economy and create memorable experiences for guests as an enticement for them to return.The council earlier this year allocated $147,500 to a handful of events, and Fashion Week is the third recipient of the city’s charity.Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said the city requires that the event organizer sign an agreement, as well as include a budget and, when it’s over, Johnson will have to produce a reconciled budget and be open to an audit.”In most of these cases, our money doesn’t go into anything specific,” he said. “But a public benefit must be proven.”The city’s stipulation with the funding is that the event be accessible to the public, and Johnson has several free events planned at retail stores around town, as well as a runway stage at the bottom of Ajax. There’s also film screenings and aprs events with 15 members of the U.S. Ski Team, including former competitor Tommy Moe and Olympian Julia Mancuso. Fashion Week was launched on a small scale in March 2009 with a modest budget. Johnson planned to increase the revenue nearly four-fold this year but a tough economic climate has made it difficult to grow it that substantially.”The biggest thing in this economic climate is to be really agile,” Johnson said. “It takes time to build momentum.”This year, Johnson was able to get about 15 sponsors signed on, as well as 40 designers, stores and brands involved in Fashion Week, which will be held Sunday through Thursday. Johnson said she expects a couple hundred people from the industry to attend the event, as well as 25 members of the media from around the country.Johnson said she coincided the event to occur during spring break in an effort to add vitality to the week.All scheduled events begin at 4 p.m., and are designed to direct consumers and guests into retail stores, encouraging them to shop in Aspen and support local businesses.Fashion Week is funded through sponsorships, designer participation fees and ticket sales. In her application to the city, Johnson originally estimated that she needed $500,000 for the entire event and requested $100,000 from the council.W magazine will kick off the week with its annual opening night party on Sunday. The schedule will include on-mountain activities with Heidiski, Marmot, Kjus and High Society Free Ride. Participants have access to the Aspen Club & Spa and make-up services at the Cos Bar. In-store events are planned at J. Crew, Burberry, The Gallerie, Pitkin Country Dry Goods, Little Bird, a Calypso pop-up shop, and many other locations. Apres ski fashion shows and presentations will occur with Marmot, Kjus, Victorinox, D&E, Helly Hansen, Obermeyer, Wellensteyn, Authier, Gray, Gabriel Conroy and Christian Siriano. There also will be screenings of Douglas Keeve’s films – “Hotel Gramercy Park,” “Seamless,” “Unzipped” and “Fashion Kingdom,” also known as “Naomi Conquers Africa,” hosted by Naomi Campbell. FEED Founders Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson will host an evening of music with John Forte at Belly Up Aspen. Aspen Fashion Week has partnered with FEED as the official charitable partner. Proceeds will benefit earthquake victims in Haiti. FEED Projects was started in 2007 by Bush, an honorary spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Program, and Gustafson, a former United Nations communications officer. For a schedule of events, log onto http://www.aspenfashionweek.comcsack@aspentimes.com


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