Very cool story below on the competing factions of FASHION WEEK LA - and the history behind and challenges of creating a serious Fashion Week in Los Angeles. Alas, first there was confusion about our - and I say, our, since I am one of the BOXeight Fashion partners - Friday night music show featuring Macy Gray and hosted by Flaunt Magazine - as it was not mentioned.
It also mistakenly described our Saturday night fashion show - where we host Econouveau, LA's definitive eco-fashion show, with international designers Gary Harvey, Bahar Shahpar and Amanda Shi - as being an evening of music, dance and spoken word performances, though those performances will also happen Saturday night - in addition to the fashion shows on Saturday night.
For more informtation go to our website at www.boxeight.com
L.A. FASHION WEEK
Three's an in-crowd
L.A. can't match Paris and Milan, but it still has pull for these designers -- two vets and a new kid.
By Emili Vesilind Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 11, 2007
IF the fashion weeks held in New York, London, Milan and Paris could be compared to a four-course gourmet meal (London being the ho-hum albacore dish), L.A. Fashion Week might be the cupcake at the end -- frivolous in comparison, but still tasty. Since L.A. Fashion Week's 2002 inception, its shows have failed to lure big-shot retail buyers or the global fashion media. And in turn, they've failed to anchor the city's talent.
More established local designers such as Magda Berliner, Grey Ant's Grant Krajecki and Jenni Kayne have chosen to stage presentations in New York, where the industry's heavy-hitters are seated ringside. But by now, everyone involved in L.A. Fashion Week knows the score.
Wrangle a clutch of celebrity attendees and enjoy the barrage of tabloid-style media coverage that ensues. For those not willing (or able) to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to show at New York's Bryant Park, it's a low-cost way to build buzz (and if you're a red-carpet gown designer such as Kevan Hall or Sue Wong, showing in L.A. is a form of front-line marketing).
For the second consecutive season, IMG's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios -- which runs from Sunday to Thursday in Culver City -- is competing for designers with BOXeight, a nonprofit organization offering designers time slots in downtown venues, at no cost to them. BOXeight's schedule kicks off tonight at a majestic new downtown venue, the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral.
READ TOP PARAGRAPH FOR DESCRIPTION OF OUR THREE NIGHTS, TWO NIGHTS OF WHICH ARE FASHION SHOWS (It's really a one-night affair, with a free-form evening of music, dance and spoken-word performances planned for Saturday.)
The no-cost trend has also extended to Smashbox Studios this season, where the pay-to-play atmosphere of seasons past -- where it seemed like anyone with an imprintable T-shirt company could score a spot in the tents if they had the green -- is being turned on its ear, as more notable local designers are being offered gratis spots, courtesy of corporate sponsorships (Smashbox itself is sponsoring a number of shows).
So whose collections are worth the life-draining valet lines that seem to go hand-in-hand with Fashion Week? We caught up with Gregory Parkinson and Jeremy Scott, proven talents who are returning to the fold with shows this week at Smashbox Studios. We also checked in with Fashion Week newbie Jeffrey Sebelia of Cosa Nostra, who will kick off the BOXeight shows tonight.
Pack your flask and check your impatience at the door. It's showtime in L.A.
Gregory Parkinson would normally be in South America this time of year, overseeing the production of knitwear and embroidery for his 15-year-old namesake collection. But the British designer thinks a triumphant return to his adopted home city is in order. Parkinson will return to L.A. Fashion Week this season -- after many years of showing solely in New York -- with a runway show scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at Smashbox Studios. (He also presented the line in New York weeks ago.)
"All of a sudden I became aware of how much goodwill there is toward me here," says Parkinson, perched on a stool next to rolling racks of his Technicolor spring collection in his downtown studio. "I think people are rooting for me." (Sweetening the pot is the fact that Parkinson's show is fully sponsored.)
THOUGH Parkinson has been on the L.A. scene for years, he's still relatively unknown to those outside the fashion community -- another reason to show in L.A. "Just to become visible again locally is a great thing," he says. The designer says he's most inspired by how his friends put themselves together -- an illustrious group (in that low-key L.A. way) that includes handbag designer Brigette Romanek, Jacqui Getty, stylist Jane Ross and his unofficial muse, jewelry designer Liseanne Frankfurt.
"The best-dressed women in the world live here," he says, adding, "I'm looking forward to everyone who's supported me for 15 years sitting in the audience." Parkinson's spring collection is defined by pastel and jewel-toned silk tops and dresses -- all in a tank silhouette -- that he delicately tie-dyes himself ("It's not a messy, Venice Beach tie-dye").
It's a fashion-forward departure for the Manchester native, who in recent years has offered knitwear and revved-up basics, i.e. simple skirts and dresses featuring lace overlays that seemed geared toward an older customer. The shift away from basics to more directional looks makes good business sense, says Parkinson.
"My consistent customers have a wardrobe of my clothes, so unless I give them something different, there's no reason to buy more. And no one can say this collection isn't spirited."
Jeremy Scott has more L.A. pride than most, but he's emphatic about one thing -- Los Angeles is not a true fashion capital. "The fashion community doesn't go to L.A.," says the designer, on the phone from Paris, where he staged a runway show for the second consecutive season two weeks ago. "It's not legitimate. I don't mean to be rude about it. Even London has always been a little 'eh.' It's New York, Paris and Milan. This has been set in stone way before any of us were here. I'm just playing by rules."
This won't stop Scott from rehashing his show -- fully sponsored by Davis Factor, co-owner of Smashbox Studios -- in Smashbox' main tent on Wednesday night. But the ever-affable designer, who last showed in L.A. four years ago and has also shown in New York in the past, says he isn't taking the freebie for granted. "I'm proud to call L.A. my home," says Scott, 31.
"When this was brought to me, I thought, 'Yes, let's show my community what I'm up to these days.' It's nice to support L.A."Scott's designs are often purposely absurd, but are always steeped in the brief history of urban street fashion -- from Tokyo to Paris to Silver Lake. His penchant for illustrations, words and signage on clothes extends into his spring collection, which was inspired by construction sites and "waste and back alleys," he says.
Expect to see models working the runway with skid marks painted on their legs and faces, clad in dresses covered in a prints of mishmashed street signs and tire tracks. Talk about fashion roadkill. "I wanted to take all these elements that are brute and dirty and nasty and turn them into something beautiful and elegant," he says. The designer sells to stores such as Colette in Paris, Loveless in Tokyo and Opening Ceremony and Scout in Los Angeles and says he would eventually like to open his own shop. "That's a huge undertaking," he says, "but it would be amazing."
Jeffrey Sebelia may be an upstart in the fashion world, but he's the only L.A. designer who gets stopped by fans on the street on a daily basis. As the most recent winner of the "Project Runway" reality TV show, Sebelia went from small-time designer (for his punk-inspired Cosa Nostra label) to a household name.
Still, parlaying reality infamy into real-world success has been no small feat. And the heavily-tattooed designer still views himself as a neophyte in the industry. "I don't know if [fame] makes life any easier," says Sebelia.
It's the week before his debut at L.A. Fashion Week, where he will open the renegade BOXeight shows. "It's really hard to get people to answer your calls as a young designer either way." (Sebelia staged his first post-"Project" show in February in a downtown loft, but a week after the Smashbox shows.)
SEBELIA says he chose to show with BOXeight instead of at Smashbox because it was free. "I was trying to show at St. Vibiana's anyway," he says. "Then this was offered, and I said, 'Perfect.' "His spring Cosa Nostra collection was inspired by "Into the Wild," the Jon Krakauer book about a young, upper-middle-class idealist who takes a Kerouacian trip into the Alaskan wilderness (the movie, directed by Sean Penn, opened last week).
"It was inspired by [lead character] Chris McCandless' whole life journey, especially the time he spent in the desert," says Sebelia. "The color palette came from that. And he ended up in Alaska, and that was [fitting] because I wanted everything to be silvery and white." Cosa Nostra's most requested piece is still the flirty striped dress zigzagged with zippers that he first created for the "Project Runway" finale, and dresses continue to inspire the designer (this season, he experiments with voluminous silhouettes and kimono-sleeved styles).
Sebelia's love of all things punk rock also lives on -- through skintight skinny jeans and long, slinky blazers for men and women. But the 37-year-old designer also steps out strongly this season with sportswear, including travel-friendly pieces such as military coats, bomber-inspired jackets and (could it be?) preppy V-neck sweaters. Does it all recollect the harrowing "Into the Wild" story?
Perhaps not outside of Sebelia's mind, but the cohesive collection is a leap forward from his previous efforts -- which were, at times, on the chaotic side.As for future plans, Sebelia is keeping himself open. (Plans to open a store earlier this year were scrapped after complications with a financial backer arose.)
"I want to go wherever [the business] takes me," he said. "The fashion business changes from week to week, and you really just have to allow yourself to see where it takes you. If I have some set path, I feel like I'll close myself off to things, as cliché as that sounds."