Is 7th on Sixth really still planning to come to town? Despite the 300 invites that went outfor a party Friday kicking off fashion Week here where 7th on Sixth’s April plans will be revealed, designers, sales reps and others in the industry here continue to pose the question.

To many here, too many groups in the last two years have declared their intentions to formalize Los Angeles Fashion Week with corporate sponsorship and better production, while attracting buyers and press from around the world.

So far, none has delivered.

(Fashion agency SPR teamed up with Audi in November 2001 for a marathon day of shows, which, although promising, didn’t quite reach its goals because of poor production and a dearth of buyers).

The city’s designers had hopes, perhaps almost too high, when 7th on Sixth, the organizers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York confirmed on Sept. 4, as first reported in WWD, that they were coming west to produce a series of shows at the end of October.

But 15 days later, deep in New York’s collection presentations, the group decided to pull out of a spring event. Not enough time to pull it off as planned, said Fern Mallis, executive director of the IMG subsidiary, underscoring that marquee sponsor Mercedes-Benz was still on board.

Los Angeles would have to wait another season for 7th on Sixth to run the fall 2003 shows in April.

The general consensus now is one of wait-and-see.

"Cocktails are nice, but if someone wants to start something, they should just do it," observed Alicia Lawhon, among the handful of designers at the forefront of the latest wave of L.A. style. "There are too many people who’ve been talking and talking about their L.A. Fashion Week plans and nothing has happened with any of them so far."

Lawhon is also among those who continue to present the edgy, grassroots shows that have become such a signature of fashion week here, though they’re often more party than business: models and attendees are usually friends; poor lighting and staging make them difficult to photograph, let alone for buyers and press to review, and far-flung locations are challenging to reach during the city’s endless rush hours.Acknowledging this, Lawhon (who is showing Tuesday evening at a downtown photo studio known as the Poodle Parlor) and others are encouraged by any efforts to "strengthen" shows here, especially if it means "attracting solid, major buyers."

Designer Trina Turk is a regular attendee at her peers’ events, yet has never shown since establishing her brand in 1995. But that could change if 7th on Sixth arrives.

"If there is a full-on fashion week going on here, it would be hard for me not to show. It’s great if IMG can bring their weight and they can pull something together. Still, there are certain L.A. designers who will show whether IMG is here or not. And I think there are those who will continue to show independently."

Indeed, since 7th on Sixth’s announcement to postpone its plans to next season, a handful of individuals and groups have said off the record that they would prefer to pursue something "without New York’s help."

Yet Mallis stressed by phone Monday that it is far from her group’s intention to steamroll into Los Angeles.

"As we’ve said all along, we’re only there to be a part of fashion week. We’re relying on people in L.A. to work with us. That’s the only way this is going to work."

Among those championing Mallis and her team is Richard Tyler.

"Sure, we’re a little disappointed it didn’t happen. But we understand it has to be right. We’ve waited this long, another season is fine," said Tyler, who is hosting a reception with couture-clad models Sunday evening. "We, as an established company, are so happy that it’s going to happen. But it’s really good for all the new designers who can’t afford to go to New York or can’t put on a proper show here."

Jeremy Scott, who is reprising his New York presentation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Saturday night, agreed: "It’s great so much attention is being focused on L.A. fashion. Giving these designers a proper platform is good for the city and the global fashion community at-large."The early-evening party Friday on the rooftop of the trendy Downtown Standard hotel is intended to reassure the fashion community here that 7th on Sixth is indeed committed to staging shows here. Mercedes-Benz and Vogue are co-hosting the two-hour soiree, which includes a 5:30 news conference offering some of the details for April’s event. "It’s a very industry-focused group we’re inviting," Mallis said. "It’s happening next April — absolutely, positively, without a doubt."

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