Has L.A. managed to flip the script and become a fashion show city at long last?
Independently of one other, a handful of designers who normally show at New York Fashion Week elected to mount events here instead, shining an even brighter spotlight on the City of Angels during an already buzzy time, with the Grammy Awards this weekend and the Oscars around the corner.
Certainly, five events over five days — Rebecca Minkoff on Saturday, Raquel Allegra and Rachel Zoe on Monday, Rachel Comey on Tuesday and the grand finale of Tommy Hilfiger tonight — are a mere drop in the New York bucket of more than 150 official shows. But the micro trend ensures that they’re each getting maximum attention before the New York Fashion Week onslaught.
“I think the cluster of designers showing in L.A. is a nice coincidence that puts another spotlight on L.A. and the interest fashion has in what’s happening in the city in terms of art and culture. That has been something we’ve seen for a while now,” said Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Fashion, it seems, is following the art scene and the cultural zeitgeist — in the age of gender fluidity, we now have fashion week fluidity.
“Fashion week is at a point where we are in a moment of experimentation; you see it evolving and not as defined. Designers are crossing in and out of the paths of Paris, London, Milan and New York; it’s more fluid,” Kolb said.
The five events in Los Angeles this week didn’t fit the uniform show mold either. There were see-now-buy-now shows and collections presented via short film and art installations. European labels are also getting in on the action this week: Kenzo will premiere its latest fashion film in L.A. for the second time on Thursday, and Vetements will unveil a capsule collection with Maxfield at a shopping event the same night.
“We are in a time where in fashion week, the structure is less important in new cities. It’s about taking shows to cities that make sense for the brand. But stamping a date and time to it that is old-fashioned,” Kolb said.
That the city has never been able to keep its homegrown runway shows to a week — sometimes stretching them out for over a month – has continually frustrated editors, so to be sure, some boundaries make sense.
Following his New York see-now-buy-now show in September, Hilfiger comes to Los Angeles with a more fine-tuned approach, secure in the knowledge that he’ll be receiving the lion’s share of attention before New York shows even start.
“We listened to our consumers, analyzed last season’s results, and built on the learnings to evolve the TommyNow platform even further as the ultimate expression of my brand philosophy,” he said. “In addition to the runway show, we will once again have the Tommy x Gigi pop-up shop, rides and unique experiences throughout the event. We’ve also added a lot of newness that celebrates local California culture and puts music and entertainment at the heart of the event,” he said.
Hilfiger will show a spring 2017 collection inspired by the “casual, cool, chic vibe that’s so signature to California” in a created, Venice Beach carnival setting, that, while not open to the public, will draw its share of local onlookers and virtual voyeurs — and hopefully, live and online shoppers.
“We’re constantly pushing boundaries to further democratize the runway and get closer to our consumers,” he said. “Our shoppable live-stream is back, along with TMY.GRL, our personalized virtual stylist-bot for Facebook Messenger. An exciting new addition this season is the Tommyland Snap:Shop app, which allows our users to shop the Tommy x Gigi collection from photos of the runway show, ad campaign, editorial shots and product in store.”
On Monday night, after her presentation that was followed by a sit-down dinner, Zoe said, “I’m thrilled Tommy is showing here. He’s one of my greatest mentors and he’s going to take over L.A. in a big way. Why shouldn’t we just embrace L.A. for its own culture and stop trying to make it New York and Paris and London?”
Minkoff, who pulled off a takeover at The Grove with style and energy (and virtually no logistical snags or “user friction,” itself a notable achievement in the age of hours-long show delays), said, “I think L.A.’s status as a city was already shifting. You could feel when Hedi Slimane came here. There’s plenty of companies that have huge success, so now more than ever more companies are getting wise to that. I think you might even see a rebalancing where a bunch of them are like, ‘Screw this New York weather, let’s move to L.A.’”
Los Angeles retailers are only too happy to embrace more events here. The Grove’s owner Rick Caruso said he was already angling to get more fashion shows. “Absolutely, we’d love to do this more often and Rebecca has really opened the door for us to do that. Our team is excited about working with more designers.”
“From an operational standpoint, it’s a no brainer because these shows are in our backyard. From a vibe standpoint, we get that validation,” said Revolve’s Raissa Gerona, who attended Zoe’s show with the e-tailer’s cofounder and co-ceo Michael Mente. “As a retailer, having to sell what customers see is a win-win situation. You join in on the fun and capture your audience. As a designer, you’re not competing with a hundred other shows, so you have their attention a little longer.”
Looking forward, the movement toward Los Angeles opens the door to other cities as well. As fashion’s search for new will inevitably continue, what will the next city du jour be, and which designer will catapult it into the spotlight? Chances are it will be a brand with the financial might to stage a remote show and the production infrastructure to support a see-now-buy-now collection. After all, the likes of Chanel, Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton already take their resort and pre-fall shows on the road, including, in the past, to L.A.
Said Hilfiger, “I can imagine our show to be like a touring rock band, reaching consumers globally and staging shows in a different city each season, including going back to New York.”
Echoed Kolb, “It’s a great idea to take that show on the road and be in front of another group of consumer. Will it be Miami next year? Will it come back to New York?”
Kolb thinks New York, Paris, Milan and London will continue to be the core base of fashion weeks, just as L.A. will continue to attract designers “to really touch city in terms of consumers and culture.”
As more brands open stores here, events to drum up sales will follow. For Rachel Comey, who opened a store last June, Tuesday night’s dinner/performance/presentation at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel Gallery for a mix of West Coast retailers, editors and celebrity clients was also designed to support business.
“After New York, L.A. is definitely our biggest market. I don’t have grand plans to open up 100 other stores around the U.S. so keeping these two strong are a priority,” she said.
Comey said she’s looking to do more types of events in L.A. while aiming to use her store as a base for personal one-on-one shopping and styling, noting, “Fashion week can mean whatever you want it to mean for your brand.”