Backstage in L.A. With Beauty’s Power Players

LOS ANGELES — A legion of artists, stylists and beauty brand reps helped more than 60 shows put on a good face April 1-5 during this city’s newly ramped up fashion week. <br><br>But was it worth it?<br><br>Los Angeles fashion week came and...

LOS ANGELES — A legion of artists, stylists and beauty brand reps helped more than 60 shows put on a good face April 1-5 during this city’s newly ramped up fashion week.

This story first appeared in the April 11, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But was it worth it?

Los Angeles fashion week came and went in a flurry of back-to-back shows, celebrity sightings and out-of-town media and buyers trying to navigate the distances between programs.

And while the models weren’t exactly seasoned, many of those working behind the scenes were thanks to beauty sponsorships by medium and major brands.

Redken signed on as official sponsor at Mercedes-Benz Shows LA, the three-venue program 7th on Sixth produced at the Downtown Standard Hotel. Besides keying hair for six shows, including Rebecca Rich, Martin Martin and Heatherette, Redken offered a penthouse courtesy suite for VIPs.

Eight stylists plus three publicists were flown out from New York, joining several more team members based here, said Shae Kalyani, assistant vice president of media for Redken. “We leveraged the brand in different ways, including using our tickets carefully among our distributors. They can now talk about Redken’s presence at the shows. It was definitely worth doing.”

While two-thirds of the shows took place at the Downtown Standard and a handful of independent events went on in surrounding locations, another dozen ran at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, where owners Dean and Davis Factor realized an opportunity to brand their Smashbox Cosmetics line by hosting their own program billed, natch, SmashboxFashionWeekLos Angeles.

The Factor brothers completely underwrote the 11 shows, but the returns exceeded the investment with the promotional benefits resulting from the brand media exposure. “We’d been wanting to do this for years, but we now have a reason to do it because of this gorgeous line of cosmetics and our agency,” said Davis Factor. “It was so worth doing it because we became more visible.”

Geoffrey Rodriguez, an artist with the in-house agency, oversaw the makeup teams, while hair was serviced by members of Jonathan A Beauty Salon. Models got a windblown look with matte skin and kohl-rimmed eyes at Rami Kashou and contrasted designer Eduardo Lucero’s drab palette with a “veil of color.”

A “Valley Beyond the Dolls” mood ruled at Frankie B., where low-rise minis met high-rise maxi hair, whereas a fall color scheme countered well with Magda Berliner’s edgy wares. Yet MAC senior artist Gregory Arlt saw his role as about more than makeup. “This was the first time for a lot of these designers, and I think our experience had a little calming effect.”

MAC has had a longtime presence at the shows here, even before they were so formally organized. “We’ve always supported a lot of the L.A.-based designers there and in New York,” noted president John Demsey. “It’s great that there is finally a week that brings a West Coast attitude in sharp focus.”

Clearly, branding is why companies get involved. The Elisa Jimenez show April 1 at a downtown gallery marked Lola’s entrée into runway work. Co-sponsor Beauty.com facilitated the link, and Lola provided more than 400 goody bags valued at $250, plus another 50 VIP bags filled with $500 worth of products, including a signature leather bag.

Although residual press hasn’t surfaced yet, Lola founder Victoria Jackson called the shows “a nice investment.It’s not only about selling the product, but the artistry of it.”

Urban Decay enlisted artist Sharon Gault to create Heatherette’s cheeky “Hollywood Walk of Fame” resort run. The beauty company, which first joined up with Heatherette in New York last season, also provided product for the goody bags packed with Hello Kitty swag.

“It was definitely worth doing because L.A. fashion week is going to get more important each season,” observed Urban Decay creative director Wende Zomnir. “For us, it’s about establishing Urban Decay as a line that works with fashion companies.”

Likewise, Fred Segal Beauty designed the hair for Heatherette, as well as Magda Berliner, Joey and T, Richard Tyler and others.

Kerastase sponsored the four to 10 artists who worked on each show from the Fred Segal Beauty agency, including creative director Paul D’Aramas and Shawn James. Makeup team leader Kalexius Kolby oversaw the body graffiti at the Joey and T show. “It was really important for us to participate in L.A.’s first official fashion week,” said cofounder Michael Baruch. “It was good for morale and it was good for promoting ourselves as a company that creates looks and doesn’t need to buy a presence.”

The bottom-line consensus? Strategies are already being reviewed with the November shows in mind.

“There’s no question that the importance of California and the integration of fashion, film, music and lifestyle is a powerful point of inception for our industry,” observed MAC’s Demsey. “L.A. is where London was 10 years ago. Watch the radar screen.”