Fashion Facelift

From 7th on Sixth’s arrival to the California Market Center’s rebranding efforts, changes of all sorts are in store for L.A.’s fashion scene.<br><br> <br><br>Come April, Los Angeles’ fashion district will be ready for its...

Cooper Building owner Steve Hirsh in the fashion district building’s new trade show space.

Cooper Building owner Steve Hirsh in the fashion district building’s new trade show space.

Donato Sardella

From 7th on Sixth’s arrival to the California Market Center’s rebranding efforts, changes of all sorts are in store for L.A.’s fashion scene.

This story first appeared in the December 18, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Come April, Los Angeles’ fashion district will be ready for its close-up.

The neighborhood is preparing for its turn in the international spotlight this spring when 7th on Sixth arrives to produce Mercedes-Benz Shows L.A., a highly anticipated runway series many hope will raise the bar on L.A.’s fashion week.

Although the shows will take place at the Downtown Standard Hotel, a few blocks east of the fashion district, property owners have begun meeting to hash out how they can contribute to the action.

An informal group including Cooper Building owner Steven Hirsh, Anjac Properties owner Steven Needleman, Gerry Building’s Mark Weinstein and the California Fashion Association’s Ilse Metchek have been meeting to “figure out how we can play a big role in fashion week,” said Lorelyn Eaves, vice president of marketing for California Market Center (formerly CaliforniaMart) and a committee member. As of press time, plans were too rudimentary to be disclosed, but the owners felt certain they can bring expertise to the process.

To date, the New Mart, another showroom building directly across the street, CMC and the trade shows they host have been the major forum for buyers to write orders. The geographically scattered runway shows, held evenings in clubs, restaurants and even in alleys, have generally been more about socializing than generating business.

“We’re trying to coalesce all these disparate elements and give them a home to present their fashion,” said Ethan Eller, manager of the New Mart. “The arrival of 7th on Sixth has certainly shaken us out of our slumber.”

Whatever comes to fruition with fashion week, representatives of the district’s buildings are working overtime to draw more daily traffic to the neighborhood.

Fittingly, the district’s anchor, California Market Center, is the most active in renewing itself. The building is planning an inside-out relaunch for January market. The five-day market, slated for Jan. 17-21, is the first time apparel and gift-and-home market dates will overlap, commingling buyers and resources.

“We are focused on integrating the two industries to create something unique — a lifestyle identity,” Eaves said.

Changes include everything from new corridor signs to a reworked advertising campaign.

Created by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Louis Urbino Design, the campaign is designed to present “style” as a unifying element between apparel and gift-and-home. A series of black-and-white photographs focus on a single image — a model, a modernist chair or a sculptural bowl — overlaid with washes of tangerine, goldenrod, magenta or aqua.

Playing off the campaign, select interior walls (now mostly white) will be painted in the palette for the building’s relaunch. Paint is a quick, inexpensive way of making a fresh statement, Eaves said, adding she envisions changing colors to reflect fashion trends.

The building continues to progress with its multimillion C-side renovation for gift-and-home tenants: widening corridors, adding glass and polished concrete floors. Seven floors will be remodeled by yearend. The entire C-side building — with the exception of the fifth floor, which will remain all apparel — will be completed in 2004.

Other changes afoot include new lobby display cases, to be designed by Krislyn Custom Floral, the florist located in the CMC’s lobby who specializes in Zen-like arrangements. Now that the palm tree has been axed from CMC’s logo (to make way for a sleeker graphic), Eaves is campaigning to remove the live trees lining the lobby. “I think they look sad, but Mr. Hertz likes them,” she confessed.

A market kick-off press conference and showroom tour will showcase the sum of these large and small changes. That evening, designer Bob Mackie will share his professional insights at “Inside the Designer’s Studio,” a new lecture series cosponsored by the CMC and Otis College of Art & Design, one of the building’s longtime tenants. Mackie, who has designed everything from Cher’s show stoppers to wrapping paper, is a fitting cross-category speaker, pointed out Sheri Mobley, a consultant to CMC.

Across the street, the New Mart is not messing with success. The building, which does not have any major renovations or new programs planned, still has a substantial waiting list for space.

“I’m still averaging five phone calls a week” from space-seekers, Eller said, adding that kind of interest is good for neighboring Gerry and Cooper Buildings, which do have space available.

Cooper Building owner Steven Hirsh is recruiting trade shows for his newly opened 12th-floor penthouse space. The venue hosted the first expanded edition of the Designer & Agents contemporary trade show at November market. Designer Yael Aflalo also chose the Cooper Building for her Ya-Ya runway show that same week.

“That was a great eye-opener,” Hirsh said, admiring a collage of shots from Ya-Ya’s show tacked to his office wall. “It was fun and it taught me a lot about what we can do with our space here.”

He’s been approached by apparel companies seeking showrooms in the building — most of the current units are design spaces — and he’s investigating ways to set aside space to create a showroom cluster.

At the Gerry Building, director of leasing Larry Hudson is focused on bringing the uninitiated into the newly rehabilitated showroom facility. He plans to launch an ad campaign with the tagline: “If you haven’t been here, you haven’t seen it all.” A market kick-off cocktail party is also under consideration. He estimates it will take about a year to get buyers trained to regularly stop by Gerry, in addition to the New Mart and CMC.

“It takes a little bit of time for people to start expanding their search,” he said. “But years ago people were debating about whether buyers would walk across the street to the New Mart and you can see what a success that’s been.”

Five floors are currently opened in Gerry; a sixth is slated to open by January market. Hudson will also rent temporary space for markets, to give prospective tenants a taste of the action.