THE PLOT TWISTS IN THE EFFORT TO FORMALIZE THE LOS ANGELES FASHION WEEK CONTINUE.
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
It had all the elements of a good script: colorful characters, surprise twists and conflict. Now, all that’s needed is a happy ending.
Efforts to formalize Los Angeles Fashion Week didn’t quite materialize the way many had wished and even planned for in recent months.
At times, it looked like as many as five groups were vying to be the first to pull off a multishow event over two or more days during the spring 2002 market that was designed to dazzle international buyers and press.
And just about everyone name-dropped their conversations with Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, the fashion show production arm of the New York-based Council of Fashion Designers of America, whose interest has been piqued by the flurry of activity here.
The fashion renaissance in recent seasons has increasingly filled the calendar with designer presentations. Held in nightclubs, on rooftops and in alleys, fans and critics conceded that improving the quality of production, from models to lighting, could raise the city’s profile as a fashion capital that has more to offer than just red-carpet flash.
There were good intentions. Nonetheless, competition to be the first to mount a production grew cutthroat. Partnerships split. Tempers flared. New coalitions formed.
And ultimately, whatever the blueprints sketched out for the spring 2002 installment were, they ended up modified, scrapped or shelved for a season.
In other words, the story isn’t over yet.
“There’s definitely something going on,” said Designer & Agent’s co-founder Barbara Kramer. “It would’ve been overly aggressive to imagine we could have a full-on fashion week by this November.”
Kramer was among the industry leaders who participated in the passionate monthly meetings, mostly held in a conference room at the CalMart campus of Otis School of Design.
A core group consistently attended, including CalMart’s executive marketing director Trish Moreno and p.r. director Karen Mamont; Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association and L.A. By Design; Cynthia Vincent, designer and president of the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers; James Benton, director of development for the Fashion Business Incubator, and Rosemarie Brantley, head of the fashion department of Otis.
“It was refreshing to see that everyone recognizes the opportunity and wants something to happen. Now, if we could get our act together as a group,” said Megan Griffith, the West Coast director for Gen Art who had also been determined, along with veteran show producer Shannon Davidson, to stage a tented show with the city’s top names. Their project was put on hold due to funding.
From the start, lines were drawn. One camp wanted to maintain the individual locations scattered around the city. Another wanted a centralized location, be it a few addresses within walking distance of each other or a single, oversized tent. Sub-arguments involved the purpose of such shows, who would participate and who would benefit.
The motley crew did agree on three key issues: There was the group’s name, the Los Angeles Fashion Week Committee. And they voted to consider proposals from groups interested in staging a formal event. The committee would then throw its support behind the group they chose.
The other decision: to support a formal calendar organized and distributed by the nonprofit Coalition of Los Angeles Designers. The unanimous vote was hard-won, however; some were concerned about CLAD’s past as a fringe group of designers who were not representative of the industry as a whole. But CLAD has been successfully repositioning itself as an informational and educational source for the local industry.
“CLAD,” said its director, Lee Trimble, “wants to be impartial. Even if we’re doing a show for our members [under the CLAD banner], we’re about supporting the city, the industry here whether it’s through seminars or the calendar. Already the calendar has prompted interest from [Hollywood] publicists and people in New York.”
Designers and publicists had in the past relied on casual phone networking to schedule times for shows. But the CLAD calendar has provided a semblance of a more formal or, at least, organized Los Angeles Fashion Week.
It’s going forth no matter what, noted Kramer. “A lot of people [at the Otis meetings] walked away frustrated.
“But what we learned in those meetings is some people have their individual agendas, and sometimes it’s not for the greater good of all mankind. Though something did get accomplished.”
Several designers have gone forward with shows, as they have in previous seasons. Forced to cancel her New York debut following the Sept. 11 attacks, Michelle Mason returned to her hometown to present her collection as she had in previous seasons, showing out of her downtown studio.
The designer had been part of the New York-bound group showing individually under the “Audi Presents Designer Collection of Los Angeles Fashion Week” banner. Of the five, only Grant Krajeki of Gray Ant will show in the Los Angeles edition being held at the Tibitz Creative Stages, a vintage building at the corner of Ivar and Hollywood Boulevard.
The Nov. 2 showcase offers invited buyers and press six runway shows back-to-back from noon to 6 p.m. The roster features contemporary lines Tree and Cornell Collins, rtw evening collections from David Cardona and Eduardo Lucero and the edgy contemporary Gray Ant. (A sixth designer was pending as of press time).
The decision by SPR, organizers of the “Audi Presents” event, to hold the shows under one roof surprised those involved in the Otis meetings. Margaret Schell and Sara Stein of the publicity and promotions agency had relentlessly argued that their clients, who include Magda Berliner, Alicia Lawhon and Jared Gold, preferred separate locations.
A party had been originally slated for the New York-bound five, but was shelved after the attacks.
Sebastian International and its color Trucco line are the hair and makeup sponsors. SPR brought in a producer, Alison Kennedy to oversee the marathon events, expected to attract some 250 to 300 guests.
In the front row may just be 7th on Sixth’s Mallis. “The hope is, if all things are copacetic, we can come out in November to explore,” she told WWD in mid-October, stressing that there have been no deals or commitments made.
Mallis underscored that, should they decide to stage something here, they “would never call the shots from New York. It would never be our intent to come out and impose on things. We believe there’s a strong market that’s unique to Los Angeles and should be supported and celebrated.”
The plot thickens.