L.A.’S FASHION MACHINE
DESPITE A SLUGGISH ECONOMY, L.A. IS MOVING FORWARD WITH PLANS TO REENERGIZE THE CITY’S FASHION AND APPAREL INDUSTRIES.

Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones

In these times of financial and political uncertainties, it’s reassuring to know that some things continue: Downtown’s redevelopment is still moving forward, the dream of an organized Los Angeles Fashion Week hasn’t dried up and local manufacturing strengths, such as denim, show no signs of fading.
The construction dust swirling around downtown buildings has to make even the biggest neat-freak happy. It’s a sign of developments to come, from residential lofts to high tech studios.
Even the idea of gentrification here doesn’t seem so frightening if it restores the glory of the city’s architectural history (yes, even if it is barely more than a century old). If a Starbucks means saving those old structures, then order me up a double soy latte.
The changes happening in the Fashion District warrant our particular attention. As Katherine Bowers reports in “Fashion District Facelift” on page 8, the CalMart, New Mart, San Pedro and Cooper Building Mart are upping the ante in the area’s revival with renovations and by repositioning their roles. Even the smallest gesture indicates that the apparel industry remains a relevant and vital force in the Los Angeles and regional economies.
Similarly, the appeal of L.A. style continues to gain interest around the world. While it remained unclear at press time whether East Coast and international buyers will feel it’s safe enough to travel yet, the efforts to construct a formal fashion week persevere from both local and outside entities. As a show of faith, Richard Tyler is launching his diffusion line, Tyler, in Los Angeles April 5.
The main obstacles, not surprisingly, involve money. The buying calendar remains an issue, as most retailers and vendors complain that dollars are mostly gone by the time Los Angeles’ market week rolls around. And the city’s fledgling designers struggle to secure sponsorships to stage proper presentations. Hopefully, that will change as automakers and other big corporate guns stop flirting and make a commitment.
In the meantime, some Los Angeles designers are deciding to go to where the buyers live. To that end, Ed Mandelbaum and Barbara Kramer have taken their Designers & Agents show to Dallas and, most recently, Tokyo. Among the curated crew who jetted to Japan: Anja Flint, Petro Zillia, Beth Orduna and James Perse. Hong Kong is also reportedly going crazy for anything by Los Angeles designers.
While this may not bode well for the hotel rooms, restaurants and other local businesses who hope to cash in on visiting buyers, it can still be good for the industry here.
The foundation of this industry, of course, lies in the junior, contemporary and misses’ categories and, an hour south in Orange County, the thriving action sports industry (one of its players, Op’s Dick Baker, is profiled in “Surf’s Up” on page 40). In all, denim rules. Worn low-slung and basic or tailored and embellished, it’s a Californian’s second skin of which the rest of the world evidently can’t get enough. WWD’s L.A.-based fashion editor Kim Friday illustrates some of the season’s best, in “The Jeans Scene” on page 12.
If I sound like a hopeless romantic for L.A. and California, I stand guilty as charged. But it’s also obvious there are issues facing this industry that need to be addressed, from the market calendar to out-of-state production.

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