LOS ANGELES — London, New York, Milan, Paris…and now L.A.?
This story first appeared in the September 4, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It looks the like the fashion season might be getting longer. Seventh on Sixth, organizers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, appear ready to stage an edition here as soon as this November to showcase — and sponsor — several of California’s rising and established designers, WWD has learned.
Although Fern Mallis, executive director of New York’s 7th on Sixth, and her staff declined to comment,sources report that the runway shows could take place at the new Downtown Standard Hotel over three full days and four evenings preceding market week here, Nov. 1 to Nov. 5, in order to facilitate attendance by local as well as out-of-town buyers and press. That has been a priority here following recent efforts — including last November’s Audi Fashion Day, spotlighting six designers in as many hours — which were high on hype yet glaringly lacking in representation from the business side of the industry. The news comes less than a year after an entourage led by Mallis descended here during last November’s spring market and met with several designers, journalists and other members of the Los Angeles fashion community. The team has returned several times since then, meeting secretly with future participants.The organization declined to comment on whether Mercedes-Benz has signed up as the marquee sponsor for the event, although sources indicate that the automaker is likely to expand its fashion industry involvement with the West Coast program.It is known, however, that on board is Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, the Beverly Hills publicity agency that represents celebrities including Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Tracee Ellis Ross, as well as automaker General Motors. Interestingly, BNC phased out its fashion division a year ago. During those Los Angeles visits, members of the 7th on Sixth team, the division of the international licensing agency IMG that produces the twice-annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week shows in Bryant Park have met with more established designers Richard Tyler and Jeremy Scott, among others, to rally their support of such a program. While L.A.-based designers were, naturally, pleased with Tuesday’s news, some retailers questioned whether an IMG-backed L.A. Fashion Week would extend an already grueling show schedule.“To have Fern and this organization here and have an official fashion week is going to be so great for Los Angeles,” Tyler said Tuesday. “We want it to be spectacular. In fact, we’ve decided we’re going to show couture in L.A. We’ve never shown it before.”Tyler first began championing “the cause,” as so many supporters have begun to call it, in April when he introduced his secondary line called Tyler in a cavernous Los Angeles warehouse filled with 600 attendees. Although clearly a veteran among many of the designers who might participate in the program, Tyler is considered a kind of godfather among them, having acted as a mentor, boss and supporter to many. He will launch the Tyler spring show in New York on Sept. 21, but not his Couture collection, he said. As for the November show here, he’s still undecided as to whether he will also show the secondary line, which is having successful sell-throughs in its first season, though he’s leaning toward showcasing both. Word that there could be sponsorship to help designers stage a professional show is welcome news, said Tyler. Indeed, despite the best efforts of fledgling designers here to put on entertaining events, they have been often marred by the poor pool of models available in their price range, production glitches and long drives in traffic jams to locations at opposite ends of town. “Many of these young designers just cannot afford to do New York,” continued Tyler. “It’s a fortune — the hotels, the show production. You have to have sewers there to do alterations. New York is still New York, but it’s so fabulous that Los Angeles is going to get the recognition it deserves.” Jeremy Scott has been championing that idea since relocating here in late February from Paris. “This just reinforces what I’ve been saying all along about L.A. and its importance to the whole global fashion community,” he said during a break Tuesday from prepping for his New York show on Sept. 21. He said he’ll reprise the lineup, maybe even with a few new looks, for his participation in the Los Angeles program.“There’s definitely something interesting going on here, something worthwhile. American fashion isn’t one-sided,” he added. “There’s a left side to this country, too.”Many retail buyers and fashion editors have been increasingly heading in this direction in search of new resources, fueled by the buzz of Scott’s relocation as well as Rick Owens’ Perry Ellis award for new talent from the CFDA in June. It’s not so much red-carpet frocks they’ve been in search of, in fact, but the distressed, reworked and quirky clothes that have become a new uniform for Angelenos — civilian and, inevitably, celebrity alike. Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York, in town last month to visit designer lines such as Loyandford and Kate O’Connor, was glad to hear the news — but cautioned that it comes at the end of an already challenging season of travel for retailers and editors. “It’s hard, because by the time you get back from New York, London, Milan and Paris and you still have people to catch up with in New York again, is one more stop going to be possible?” she wondered. Members of Barneys Co-op have made the trek during recent fashion weeks here. “It all depends on who’s showing. And if there’s some funding to help the presentations, that’s nice too. [In recent seasons], so many people from L.A. have been coming to New York or have showrooms here.”Indeed, as reported in WWD Friday, newly funded Jared Gold is adding a New York showroom and will show at the Pavilion at Bryant Park on Sept. 22 at noon. But other West Coast-based designers, including Michelle Mason, say that staging a show in Los Angeles is preferable since the city informs their aesthetic.To that end, Gilhart is open: “If they can’t show in New York, then who knows? It may take a while to develop, but it’s a good start. Other than the travel, there’s certainly no down side to it.”