Op-Ed

How The West Was Won

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios

LOS ANGELES, Apr 2, 2004/ FW/ — As Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios, commonly called Los Angeles Fashion Week winds down, it is already evident that the City of Angels has burgeoning fashion scene that is infectious and full of life.

Though Los Angeles had been celebrating a fashion week for the past several years, it was not until 7th on Sixth, producers of New York Fashion Week, who came three seasons ago elevated the city into world class show.

During the Spring 2004 season, when FW asked Fern Mallis, Executive Director of 7th on Sixth why her organization decided to head west, she quickly answered, “Because we believe in L.A. There is a fashion scene here that just needs to be developed and tapped.”

She was not alone in that belief. The same time that Mercedes Benz Show LA was being held at The Standard Downtown, an alternative fashion week was being held at the Smashbox Studios called “SmashboxLosAngelesFashionWeek” at the same time.

As we have already discussed here at FW (see Daily Blog: March 31, 2004), 7th on Sixth and Smashbox Studios joined forces and created a synergistic relationship that is beneficial to everyone – designers, retail buyers and fashion press, by holding one fashion week under one roof.

And that was the key that opened the floodgates of support from the community, including the glitterati of Hollywood.

Los Angeles is a town of celebrities, from actors and musicians. The star power alone will draw the crowds into the shows, and guarantee coverage not only by the fashion press, but the celebrity press also.

And although there were only 40 shows on the official calendar (a very small number compared to the numbers of designers showing in New York, Milan and Paris which usually reach more than 120 per city), celebrity sightings is at least equal if not more to those seen at the international fashion scene.

With their unexpected appearances at the show, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sharon Stone and Antonio Sabato, Jr, whose faces are easily recognized by an adoring public, the Los Angeles Fashion Week became fodder to celebrity watchers, from the print, online and TV media. And that is advertising that even the organizers cannot put a dollar amount on.

As seasoned fashion insiders know, the attendance of the media and their coverage is the key to a successful show. As Los Angeles PRs and designers fill their front row, and in turn the venue with fashion industry people such as retail buyers and fashion press, the reach of the designers become wider.

Unlike last season wherein most of the shows (except for a very few) were filled with friends, wanna-be models and wanna-be celeb, the Fall 2004 season saw more of fashion industry denizens in attendance.

The presence of the fashion press insured that the event is no longer local. It has been taken into a national, even international level.

Another important key to the success of this season’s Los Angeles Fashion Week is Custo Barcelona who showed his main line, and flew in highly paid catwalkers Alek Wek and Tiu whose faces are known internationally. Both models have graced the runways of New York, Milan and Paris, the three most important fashion capitals.

With Custo Barcelona flying in their Barcelona and Milan-based staff, it gave Los Angeles credibility in the eyes of the fashion flock.

And let us not forget Lloyd Klein and Richard Tyler who historically show their collections in New York. This was Lloyd Klein’s first appearance on the Los Angeles runway, while Richard Tyler had shown his diffusion line “Tyler” from the beginning at the City of Angels.

So, how was the west won? A combination of these important elements that guaranteed its success.

[MARI DAVIS]

Photo by JAVIER MATEO