The final days of LA Fashion Week saw two wildly different visions of the event’s future go head-to-head. Downtown LA Fashion Week and City of LA Fashion Week battled for the style spotlight, but the two events could not have been more different—one filled with high-wattage glamour, and the other with a little more grit.
After a three-day break following the previous weekend’s BOXEight shows, Downtown LA Fashion Week made its debut last Thursday. Held in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen space in Little Tokyo, the event carried all the glitz and gloss that have been missing from LA Fashion Week for so long.
There were certifiable celebrities (Marisa Tomei, Nicole Richie, Liz Goldwyn, Rose McGowan, Zoe Saldana). There was red carpet-worthy vintage couture curated by Decades’ Cameron Silver (Yves Saint Laurent, Norman Norell, Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin). And there was a presentation from one of LA’s most respected designers, Louis Verdad, who unveiled his new Louver collection. The designer’s dark, dramatic pieces, which combined spikes and lace, long trains and leopard-print fur, were presented in an installation alongside photography and film of his past work, by August Bradley and Robertino Fonseca respectively. Founder Leanna Lewis refers to the event as “an environmental and cultural collaborative of fashion, art and music,” and the setting promises to be a good fit for some of the city’s more established designers in the future—Jasmin Shokrian, Rami Kashou and Kevan Hall immediately come to mind.
The following night saw the debut of the City of LA Fashion Week, otherwise known as COLA. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different: after entering through a clandestine door in a Downtown alley, guests proceeded up a pot smoke-scented stairwell to a series of loft showrooms in which the reception and runway shows were located. According to a statement from the event’s organizers, a breakaway group of former BOXEight staffers: “While parties and other related affairs are enjoyable, we do not believe them to be integral parts of a fashion show. Instead, we focus on press recognition, buyer attention and the showcasing of innovative design.” Translation: none of DLAFW’s prized celebrities, no all-night afterparties with endless DJ lineups a la BOXEight.
But the party atmosphere still managed to find its way in, thanks to a hip crowd of buyers, bloggers, showroom owners and designers’ entourages, who wandered over from the neighboring Market Week. As for the clothes, the runways showed some of the most solid and buyer-friendly of the week: Sleek Scandinavian simplicity from Danish brand Eksempel, easy ‘40s-era glamour from Fremont, Japanese-inspired menswear from San Francisco’s B.Son, ’90s hip hop-tinged streetwear courtesy of Joyrich, and the holographic fantasy that is Brian Lichtenberg’s namesake line (with a twist of Yeti thrown in).
In its post-event press release, the Downtown LA Fashion Week organizers lauded their show as “the leader in events to replace Smashbox.” But the one question this season has raised is whether one overarching, headlining LA Fashion Week event is really appropriate for a city with such a multi-layered design scene. After all, while a gallery locale and A-list attendees are totally suitable for a Decades couture show, a collection (and colorful, club-kid crowd) like Brian Lichtenberg’s just feels more at home in a more low-key, informal setting. Then again, as the seasons progress and each event adds days and designers to its roster, there will surely be an overlap between each one, causing stress and confusion for the press and buyers. Only time will tell which events survive and which ones flounder, but the fact that so many organizations are giving it a shot proves there’s hope for LA Fashion Week yet.