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See-through tents give a sneak peek

Fashion Week's organizers go for a transparent look this year.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The large white tents erected in Bryant Park for New York Fashion Week are exclusive and mysterious, and you usually need an invitation to see what goes on inside. Until now.

The main entrance and lobby, which face Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, are see-through this year — the first time in the nearly 40-year history of the spectacle, which is held twice yearly.

"After all these years, people are always dying to get a look inside, and now they can," said Fern Mallis, vice president for IMG Fashion, which produces Fashion Week.

"Now they can stop trying to sneak in," she joked.

Mallis said Fashion Week was trying to become more ecologically friendly, so the initial idea was to make the lobby resemble a greenhouse, and the design grew from there.

"We've done so many different graphics and used so many designs, but we never thought of this before," she said. "It really looks great at night."

Just don't expect to peep on models changing for the shows. Most of the tents were kept opaque for security reasons, Mallis said.

More than 80 designers were scheduled to preview their styles for spring 2007 over eight days at Fashion Week, which opened Friday with menswear designer John Bartlett's show. The event ends Sept. 15 with shows by Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Vivienne Tam, among other designers.

Early Friday, most people rushed past the chaos at the Bryant Park tents as invitation-holders began arriving for the runway shows, but a few peered into the clear plastic walls.

"I just wondered what was going on," said Ping Fu, a Hoboken, N.J., resident on her way to work. "It caught my eye as I walked by and I had to see if anything interesting was happening. I always wonder what goes on at those shows."

New Yorker John Durkin, a blogger, said the see-through tents were a sign of changing times in the fashion world.

"It used to be secretive, elite," he said. But "look at people on the Bravo show," said Durkin, referring to the hit "Project Runway." The inside world of fashion is becoming exposed, and this is an example of it."