LOS ANGELES — Another Los Angeles Fashion “Week” down (runway shows and presentations ran Oct. 8 to 21, so technically it’s more than a week), thus ending a long season that spanned the globe and nearly two months. What’s the takeaway? The incremental steps forward made last season back-pedaled as the calendar splintered with new events companies and shows migrating from one venue to another. The handful of promising new lines, such as Frances Caine, Alexandrino and Sania Josiah, and steady collections from Colton Dane and Altaf Maaneshia, were far outnumbered by ill-fitting clothes, poor quality and collections that were generally not up to runway standards.
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Tuesday’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund group runway presentation was still the most professionally-staged and highest-caliber fashion event, featuring the standout Los Angeles-produced denim-oriented line Simon Miller. Yet it’s not part of the official L.A. Fashion Week calendar, though CFDA chief executive officer Steven Kolb said that L.A. Fashion Week is under discussion among CFDA’s 475 members, 39 of which are California-based.
“There is a moment happening in fashion in Los Angeles that’s exciting and powerful but the members here are feeling ‘How can we do something with [members] that’s more structured and more regular?’” said Kolb. “It’s been on the list of things to focus on — all of [the designers] are ready for it now.” Kolb admitted that he hadn’t attended L.A. Fashion Week in a long time, but he saw potential for a more legitimate fashion event. “What it lacks is authenticity of origin,” he said. “Why should there be a fashion week? Is a marketing and p.r. company creating something just for the sake of creating it? I don’t know if that can resonate, but if you have the talent that is interested in being more visible and presenting the collective L.A. fashion, that’s a good thing.”
If L.A. Fashion Week is going to continue to exist, it needs to define its purpose.
“There is a lot to be said for market happening in New York. Does L.A. Fashion Week need to be a preview of the next season or could it be more in-season-driven that connects back to the retail environment in L.A.?,” asked Kolb. “Those are things I’ve been talking about since I’ve been [in Los Angeles] and it’s a good question. It needs an authentic root to it, that’s for sure.”
When asked if she attended any of the show this season, Los Angeles retailer Elyse Walker said, “Do I really have to say?…I did not, but it’s just because I just came back from Paris, and we landed Sunday night, and Monday morning was L.A. market [which she does attend]. You have nothing left to give [at that point]. You don’t write your orders in Paris, you look and you take notes. So this week, I start writing orders. We work all morning and it takes until Friday to get all those orders in, plus we have L.A. market. I’d love to support any fashion that I could in LA, but physically it’s an impossibility to really come up for air.”
For all its imperfections, the event is not without its positives, specifically social media. Odylyne’s Stephanie Lampkin showed a bridal line Odylyne The Ceremony this season after an 18-month maternity leave, and picked up 500 new Instagram followers within three days of presenting her collection. Debbie Talanian, the designer of Stella Proseyn, made a sale to online retailer Riley & Coco after a buyer saw photos of her metallic-enhanced contemporary separates on Instagram. She also lent nine garments to bloggers, another look to a magazine for a photo shoot, and was featured in a half dozen blog posts. For a brand that generates less than $1 million in annual sales, such digital outreach is a boon.“What has benefited me is having bloggers and people with a social media presence [attending L.A. Fashion Week] spread the word to their followers,” said Talanian, who spent more than half of her season’s marketing budget on her runway show.
The low-risk atmosphere in Los Angeles also allowed emerging brands to test a major market. “Because we’re still emerging at this point, New York didn’t make sense for us,” said Brad Parnell, the 26-year-old designer of William Bradley, who moved to L.A. from Birmingham, Ala., last year.
Home of Hollywood, Los Angeles holds an advantage over New York when it comes to red-carpet dressing. That’s why Dubai-based Dar Sara chose Los Angeles for its U.S. runway debut, closing Style Fashion Week on Oct. 19. Britney Spears, Shakira and Ariana Grande have worn the collection’s intricately embellished pieces in the past and the runway show attracted 10 stylists, two of whom pulled looks for their clients to wear to the upcoming American Music Awards and CMA Awards. “With a foreign brand, when you think of the U.S., and especially the red carpet, you always think of L.A. first and foremost,” said Kate Bedrick, a spokeswoman for Dar Sara. “I definitely think they’ll show in L.A. again.”
Also on the plus side, L.A. Fashion Week is small enough that young designers can find ways to fund a show. Winning the Open Runway competition sponsored by the Los Angeles Fashion Council allowed Sania Josiah to make her runway debut in L.A. With degrees in textile and fashion design from the University of Rhode Island and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, the 24-year-old sews all the clothes, inspired by vibrant fabrics from her West African heritage, by herself. She makes ends meet by working part-time at an auto interior design firm. “I just came to California [from Rhode Island] a little over two years ago,” she said. “I’m still learning.” Apparently, L.A. Fashion Week is still on the learning curve, too.