L.A. Fashion Week at the Petersen Automotive Museum, returning April 1, is hoping for an even bigger future with new owner N4XT Experiences.
The global tech and events company launched in 2022 by former Fenty chief creative officer Ciarra Pardo, Spring Place president and co-founder Imad Izemrane, and entertainment and finance veterans Marcus Ticotin, Keith Abell and Jackie Trebilcock has purchased the event for an undisclosed sum.
“With the N4XT Experiences team behind us, we believe LAFW is poised to become a major global fashion week, as Los Angeles continues its evolution into a fashion powerhouse,” said Arthur Chipman, who has produced the mix of in-season and preview-season runway shows over several days each October and April since 2018 at the Petersen Automotive Museum among the vintage cars and on its expansive roof deck.
The new stakeholders are betting on tech, off-runway events and buzzy designers to recharge L.A. Fashion Week, which has a long and messy history.
Through the last two-plus decades, from indie-style shows from local designers held in far-flung locations, to the coordinated effort at Smashbox Studios under a five-year partnership with IMG that ended in 2008, L.A. has never had the cred of New York, London, Milan or Paris — or the international attendance.
There has been legal wrangling over who can call itself L.A. Fashion Week, multiple producers and events — even a Vegan Fashion Week — and all have typically been consumer rather than industry-focused affairs, with a boozy night out with sponsors seemingly goal number one.
This has continued even as big-name designers Tom Ford, Moschino, Dior, Saint Laurent and Gucci have taken advantage of the city’s sun and celebrity-filled landscape to stage one-off shows of their own in recent years. The latest, hometown hero Mike Amiri will show in L.A. on Feb. 8.
The one local event that has had considerable staying power in recent years is Chipman’s, which was held at other venues going back to 2010. (He even trademarked the name L.A. Fashion Week in 2015.) At the Petersen, he has featured runway shows by Greg Lauren (who had, by far, the biggest celebrity attendance last October with Usher and Chance the Rapper in his front row), Gypsy Sport, Porsche Design, Superdry and Oliver Tolentino, among others, with sponsors such as Stella Artois, Essentia Water and Redkin.
Pardo, who spent 17 years working with Rihanna, Savage and Fenty, is well positioned to rebrand the event at the museum. In addition, Spring Place, part of the Spring Group that hosts New York Fashion Week and the Tribeca Film Festival, will host related L.A Fashion Week experiences and events at its Beverly Hills members’ only club.
“Being an L.A. transplant by way of New York, I’ve watched the renaissance. I’ve been here for 18 years and I’m convinced what’s happened in food, art, music and film will be happening in fashion,” Pardo said in an exclusive interview. “The [L.A. Fashion Week] platform has been there but hasn’t been used to its best ability. There’s tons of potential and lots of great brands. L.A. has been a pioneer in streetwear, with the Fairfax District, and there are a lot of cool things that have come out of here that haven’t had a voice,” she said, declining to reveal any brand sponsors or designers participating, but sharing that she would be reaching out to her contacts, including Chris Gibbs, owner of the streetwear mecca Union, and perhaps Rihanna.
“To this day, Rihanna is a close friend, and I’m super proud of all we did together. We built that from the ground up,” she said, noting that she worked on launching both Savage and Fenty, from the livestreamed Fenty Puma show in Paris to the Amazon Prime Savage x Fenty extravaganzas.
She’s looking to bring some of the magic of entertainment, livestreaming and shopping to L.A. Fashion Week. “Full respect to the CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America], but creating more freedom by way of tech will be at the top of my personal list,” Pardo said.
“There’s nothing that will be able to compete with New York, London, Milan and Paris, but the opportunity here is to get tech and beauty and up-and-coming brands involved. There’s also a big exclamation around sustainability.”
Programming that IMG and the CFDA have created around New York Fashion Week has been an inspiration as well. “With all the past L.A. Fashion Weeks, there hasn’t been any fireside chats or education,” she said, noting that Spring Place will serve as a venue for activations, dinners, experiences and chats.
She envisions a fashion week that is unique to L.A., and both consumer and industry-focused, but acknowledges there is room to improve on the professionalism of the shows, including the notoriously hour-plus late start times, for one.
“Where the world and the metaverse and digital play and sales, and online retail e-commerce is leading does more to support the consumer side,” she said of fashion week’s reason for being. “We have to stop to think about how we’re communicating through programming, how we’re communicating on sustainability. I hope to feel a difference in April, but the intention is to create more of a balance, so that people are getting introduced to cool brands, having a dope experience at the Petersen, and getting an education.”