The fifth and final day of the Benz shows featured mostly unfamiliar names, yet the majority wouldn’t be considered new designers. Norway-born Leila Hafzi, for instance, pioneered the eco-fashion movement nearly a decade ago, even though this was her first LA show. Her collection of vibrantly colored, hand-painted evening gowns was one of the week’s most inspiring—proving that fair-trade practices, sustainable materials and glamour aren’t mutually exclusive. Another LAFW first-timer, Colombian designer Amelia Toro, has been established in Latin America for years. Although her collection was slightly unfocused, its ’60s silhouettes and graphic floral prints made front row viewers smile for the first time all week. The day’s one true neophyte was Nonja McKenzie, a local stylist whose debut collection of beaded shifts, shimmering batwing kaftans and silk jersey wrap dresses were a little piece of Studio 54 updated for the Foxtail girl.
On the opposite side of town, LA’s other headlining Fashion Week event kicked off with just as many unfamiliar names—albeit with a very different crowd. Now in its fourth season, BOXeight Fashion Week has emerged as a respected alternative for newer, more avant-garde designers, headed up by an organization that supports Downtown LA’s growing creative community. This season’s highlights included Brian Lichtenberg‘s sci-fi boudoir (all geometric lace paneling and cage-like headpieces), Anzevino and Florence‘s take on androgyny and stark romance (both male and female models sported draped henleys, pleated bermudas and ruffles) and Michel Berandi’s dramatic fusion of grunge and gothic glamour.
Despite a few kinks—namely, a late-night schedule that routinely runs more than an hour behind—BOXeight seems poised to fill the gap next season, especially if Smashbox’s Dean and Davis Factor hit roadblocks during their planned move to Hollywood. Whether a larger centralized event emerges or whether we see a move toward independent shows scattered across the city—like Gregory Parkinson‘s installation of patchwork maxidresses at Honor Fraser gallery, or Joy Han’s presentation linked to Market Week—still remains to be seen. Either way, one thing’s for certain: LA’s design talent and passion undoubtedly exist, but they just need the right framework in place to rightfully prove it to the world.