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L.A. Fashion Week: On With the Show

With showtime for Los Angeles’ expanded Fashion Week just days away, the industry is wondering about possible effects of the war.

Be it an Echo Park cool sweatshirt or a snazzy red-carpet cocktail dress, L.A. is taking its turn in the spotlight. Here are previews from several hot tickets on next week’s catwalk, shot at one of the host venues, Smashbox Studios.

LOS ANGELES — With showtime for this city’s much-touted and expanded Fashion Week just days away, vendors and buyers from here to New York are wondering to what degree a war 8,000 miles away will affect its success.

Most remain resolute in their quest to deliver a sparkling stage of events while ever wary of security issues and striking the appropriate tone.

As reported, 7th on Sixth’s Mercedes-Benz Shows L.A. and Smashbox Studios combined will host about 60 fashion shows and events March 30-April 7, creating the largest fashion package the city has witnessed, even since the glory days of the Fifties and Seventies. And there are independent presentations by Elisa Jimenez, John Sakalis and Jeremy Scott.

Market week runs concurrently, April 2-8. In all, 9,000 visitors are expected to arrive here within the next week. Analysts estimate Los Angeles Fashion Week will impact the local economy by $25 million to $30 million.

So far, industry players said they aren’t planning unusual security measures at showroom buildings or events. Officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and Culver City Police Department (home of Smashbox Studios) said they haven’t stepped up security efforts for fashion week.

“Because we are in a tent on the parking lot and inside [The Standard Hotel Downtown], we haven’t changed any of the original plans as far as signage and restrictions on press,” said a 7th on Sixth spokeswoman. (Executive director Fern Mallis was traveling and unavailable for comment at press time.)

“This isn’t a target of Al Qaeda,” pointed out Dean Factor, a partner in Smashbox Studios with his brother Davis. They also own the Smashbox cosmetics brand.

Both organizers sold their programs on the promise of increased vendor attendance and media coverage — particularly from those outside the region. At press time, WWD confirmed that market or fashion editors from Elle, In Style, Seventeen, Marie Claire, the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Morning News and Style.com are on their way.

“You have to support the talents you believe in and go on,” said Ginger Brang, a New York-based fashion market editor at Glamour, who has not altered her travel plans, on Monday.

“You can’t help but think about your personal safety,” said Toby Tucker, In Style’s fashion market editor, who is making the trip from New York. “We can’t be narcissistic. A fashion show would be the last place anything would happen.”

California Market Center officials say they expect retail attendance to its apparel, gift and home accent showrooms to climb 12 percent, buoyed by the extension of the business week from five to seven days. The CMC also moved its Urban Suburban show up a week to coincide with the April market.

“We wanted to make sure we were part of the celebration and let retailers be aware they have a bigger opportunity to shop the center,” said Lorelynn Eaves, the CMC’s chief marketing director.

Buyers from Barneys New York, Bebe and Nordstrom said they will attend market. “Our schedule is as usual,” stated Barneys’ Terrence Bogan, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of the retailer’s Co-op division.

While playing down the glitz was an issue for the Oscars, it’s mostly business as usual and then some as the Los Angeles fashion industry scrambles to capitalize on the heightened activity of the week. Designers & Agents is hosting its first party April 5, while the Gerry Building is offering temporary space to at least 15 designers. The New Mart, CMC, Cooper Building and Gerry Building have formed a joint-marketing effort called Intersection to attract buyers.

Fledgling designers, too, say they have to make the most of their opportunity. Model Janice Dickinson will make a runway appearance for designer Mona Thalheimer’s Mona & Co. show as part of the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers show on April 4. “It’s very helpful to have someone like her on board when things are cluttered and there’s a possible fear of buying,” said Bruce Johnston, Thalheimer’s partner. “It’s a way to stand out and get recognition.”

Local Gen Art director Megan Griffith said corporate sponsorships have taken longer to reel in for the nonprofit group’s April 4 fashion show — highlighting alumni Jared Gold, Alicia Lawhon and Louis Verdad. Nike and Acura, now on board, are not backing away in the midst of turmoil. “We haven’t heard a thing from [show sponsors] about canceling and we have an obligation to them to put on a great show,” Griffith said, noting the $40 ticket sales which benefit Gen Art programs are meeting expectations.

Among some designers, interpretation of their collections and presentations is at the fore. Eduardo Lucero, at Smashbox April 5, said he restyled his 40-piece show from edgier to softer looks.

“Things were starting to look too military, too drab, with the olive and the greens so we added lighter tones such as gold, pink and lime green,” Lucero said. Gray Ant’s Shelly Carter said designer Grant Krajecki has toned down his April 3 show at the Standard to include fewer theatrical elements. “There will be pieces that will shock —but no dancing,” she said. “As much as I’d like to protest the war with a peace sign, businesses in general are in a fragile state and we’re really just trying to stay focused.”

Designer Kate O’Connor, who’s presenting her first fashion show outside last season’s Gen Art forum with 30 looks on April 3, echoed the sentiment: “It does feel strange to celebrate when the world is unsure. But this is something I’ve worked toward for a long time and it’s time to show the collection.”

Barring unforeseen circumstances, designer Cornell Collins insists, “calling the show off is not an option. I don’t think it’s showing disrespect. If anything, it would be a detriment not to show. We’re trying to get the economy healthy again.”