By  on March 14, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Fashion week is branching out from Culver City and returning to its roots in the downtown garment district here during the three days before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios.

This year will mark the addition of two organized collectives of shows, BOXeight at the Los Angeles Theater and Kitten Magazine Fashion Week at The Standard Downtown hotel.

Both have funding from downtown real estate developers who hope that nurturing the cultural scene will draw residents to their new lofts and apartments. In addition, there is a movement to provide venues for designers who either don't want to show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week or who can't afford the fee, ranging from $1,500 to $5,500. Kitten charges $500 for eight models and all production costs except printed materials. BOXeight charges no fee for the venue, and designers pay their own models, stylists and production fees.

"We can't and don't want to compete with the shows in Culver City, but we can do our own thing with smaller designers, and maybe lure others away from Culver City….The industry is downtown where the markets are, and it's a natural fit," said Mike Vensel, a photographer and designer who founded Kitten, a quarterly online magazine devoted to covering emerging designers.

Vensel planned to produce Kitten Fashion Week with Peter Gurnz, founder of BOXeight studios, a group of artist studios that leases 20,000 square feet of space in the garment district. Gurnz and Vensel parted when Vensel decided to stage Kitten Fashion Week at The Standard Downtown, where he has produced one-off fashion events.

Gurnz, meanwhile, hooked up with city officials and real estate developers who arranged to donate the Los Angeles Theater space.

Vensel said next year, if the show grows, he would consider tenting the parking lot of the hotel.

Gurnz also has plans to expand the BOXeight shows, adding more theater venues. "There are a lot of plans to bring Broadway and downtown back to life and tap into the fashion scene and make this a cultural epicenter," he said.

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