Mysteries of Fashion Week: Where You Sit

How do designers distribute that coveted prize, the front-row seating assignment? Vanity Fair investigates.

Ports 1961 uses a system of the sort favored by tenth-grade class secretaries. It involves a lot of color coding, and careful notes, and exhaustive knowledge of social hierarchies:

Two days ago, Atelier sorted the master list by category and printed out everyone’s name and affiliation onto small, color-coded square stickers. Orange was used to indicate national press, pink for Web sites, gray for newspapers, white for stylists, and green, cleverly, was reserved for retail (after all, it’s the color of money). The stickers were then placed onto a blown-up and laminated diagram of the venue that indicates every seat.

Of course, there is a computer program revolutionizing this task: “Fashion GPS.”

The program is essentially a centralized contact-management system that helps a fashion house create an invitation list from a database of contacts. The technology makes it easy to categorize buyers, celebrities, and press within the system, and it lets the fashion house pre-approve how many guests someone can bring to the show. Once a guest list is created, the fashion house can send out digital e-vites with a link to where guests can log in to R.S.V.P., and responses are automatically updated.

When a Fashion GPS list is finalized, the fashion house can create a digital seating chart that is customizable to the venue, right down to the number of rows and chairs. To seat someone, you drag his or her name from the list and place it into the desired seat.

“E-Vites”? “Digital seating chart”?

Fashion GPS estimates that 35-40 percent of fashion show in New York use “some facet” of its futuristic method. Clearly they are the nerds.

Mysteries of Fashion Week: Where You Sit