Stealing the Show
Downtown's Own Fashion Week Arrives
by Anna Scott
This week, a cadre of models and designers will parade through a former church in Downtown, but it's the neighborhood itself that will really strut its stuff.
On Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, Downtown will see its second fashion extravaganza of the year. The event, organized by a trio of local planners, is in many ways an answer to L.A.'s official Fashion Week.
"The whole concept is to bring Fashion Week back Downtown, where it belongs," said Gary Warfel, a real estate developer, Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council board member and event co-founder.
Since 2004, L.A. Fashion Week has been held at Smashbox Studios in Culver City. Although it draws significant crowds, the location does not entirely make sense to the enterprising Downtown denizens behind this week's festivities.
"The fashion industry in L.A. is headquartered Downtown," said Downtown activist and event co-founder Brady Westwater. " A group of us have been saying for some time that the fashion industry is right here, so I figured, let's do it."
Westwater, Warfel and artist Peter Gurnz - whose company, BOXeight, is producing the event - came up with the idea of staging a Downtown Fashion Week over drinks early this year. They organized the first gathering, held in March at the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway, in just six weeks.
The idea, they say, is not only to foster appreciation for Downtown's Fashion District as an industry capital, but also bring together as many of the area's creative powerhouses as possible.
"It's about celebrating all the creative tribes of Downtown and L.A.," said Westwater. "We bring together disparate groups, people who don't know each other, but should."
This week's event at Vibiana Place - the former St. Vibiana Cathedral - will feature runway shows as well as music, film screenings and parties. The events are expected to draw thousands. They selected the former cathedral, said Westwater, because of its impressive architecture, large indoor spaces and outdoor garden that is perfect for after-parties. The building was purchased by developer Tom Gilmore, who restored it and transformed it into an events center.
The festivities kick off at 5 p.m. on Thursday with a show by designer Jeffrey Sebelia, the Downtown-based founder of the Cosa Nostra clothing line and winner of the Bravo network reality show "Project Runway." Later, designer Louis Verdad presents his spring 2008 collection, followed by an 8:30 p.m. screening of the fashion film festival 'You Wear it Well' and the Bohemian Society will hit the runway with a special Midnight show.
Designer Eduardo Lucero showcases his spring collection at 10 p.m., and an after-party with DJs will rage until 2:00 a.m.
Saturday's events are presented in collaboration with the environmental-arts collective EcoNouveau, and come with a decidedly earth-friendly spin. After green-carpet arrivals, the festivities will include non-traditional runway shows by environmentally conscious designers Amanda Shi/Avita, Bahar Shahpar and Gary Harvey. Musical performances and art and video installations will intermingle with fashion.
An after-party will boast several DJs.
BOXeight has also partnered with arts organization Gen Art and Flaunt magazine, which has allowed a third day of fashion-related fun. On Friday, Oct. 12, Gen Art will hold its "Fresh Faces in Fashion Los Angeles" show at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Hollywood, which is being cross-promoted with the Downtown events.
Also Friday, Oct. 12, BOXeight and Flaunt will co-host a fashion industry party at Vibiana Place from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.
"This will be remarkable for Downtown and for all Los Angeles," said Warfel, who hopes the collaboration with Gen Art will bring attention not only to Downtown, but to L.A. at large as an international fashion destination. Warfel also hinted that more surprises might be in store when L.A. Fashion Week 2008 rolls around." BOXeight and Gen Art share a common goal to work together to bring one of the most compelling events to Downtown next spring," he said, which hopefully "will forever change the way the fashion world views" the city.
"We are a fashion hub," said Westwater. "One of the major fashion hubs of the world, but the shows for all of the buyers and press, and the international attention, has always been on Milan, Paris, London, New York. Our designers feel the only way they can get noticed is to go to New York. But why can't they come to Downtown L.A.?"
Vibiana Place, 210 S. Main St.
Some events are invitation-only. Information at (213) 747-7016 or http://www.boxeight.com/.