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New partnership enters Los Angeles' fashion week fray

July 20, 2010 |  6:00 am

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Get out your scorecards and sharpen your pencils; there's a new "week" on the Los Angeles fashion week horizon -- and it's billing itself as "the first official LA Fashion Week."

Promising a format that includes "European-style runway shows, brand presentations and sponsor lounges," the new event is the result of a partnership between local PR firm World Coast Management and LA Production Studios. It is scheduled to take place at the latter's 18,000-square-foot facility at 1025 E. 16th St. in downtown Los Angeles, starting Oct. 20 and ending either Oct. 24 or 25.

“We’re really excited, we’ve been working for about a year on this project,” said WCM's Chief Executive Susan Costa, "and it’s going to be an actual fashion week and not just events and parties." (Costa is referring to the traditional fashion-week format in which designers stage catwalk presentations that showcase an  upcoming season in front of a seated audience that consists of retail buyers and fashion press.)

Of course the immediate question is: Just how does the new event plan to succeed when the catwalk is

littered with the stiletto-clad corpses of so many efforts that came before (Rock Fashion Week LA and Downtown Fashion Week LA to name two of the more recent).

"Those fashion weeks were produced to make a big profit," Costa told All The Rage, referring specifically to the five-year, 10-season IMG / Smashbox Studios partnership that ended in October 2008.  "You would just write a check, and you’re in the show. ... This is not going to be structured that way, or in a way to make a great profit."

Costa said her fashion week plans to rely on sponsorships to keep designers' costs low. The designer information packet quotes three tiers: a $15,000 headliner show, a $5,000 runway show, and a $2,500 group show, split with three other labels. "We're also reaching out to see if we can bring on some sponsors so that emerging designers can show at no cost," she said. (This strategy is nothing new, the IMG / Smashbox shows often did the same thing.)

Costa added that instead of focusing on the parties and social events, which she thinks have dominated efforts since the collapse of the IMG / Smashbox shows in Culver City, the new entity is focusing on making it easy and convenient for journalists and buyers. (Though catering to the needs of the press and retailers has been the oft-stated -- if not exactly achieved -- goal of just about every fashion week effort the city has seen to date.)

"We feel there is as much talent here on the West Coast [as in New York], but they don’t have a platform," she explained. "Boutique owners don’t want to travel all the way to New York -- they're having a hard time going to Vegas for MAGIC [a twice-annual clothing and accessories trade-show] -- and it'll help the designers that show here without the huge expense of traveling on top of having to get their collections together."

Costa said organizers are hoping for a mix of well-established names and up-and-coming labels -- and not just from Los Angeles. "We're trying to keep the focus on American brands and American labels," she said.

According to Costa, confirmed designers to date include: Jazmin Whitley, Anh Volcek, Ximena Valero and Marialia Pacitto. In addition, she said, "we have invited and are waiting confirmation on Ralph Lauren, Nanette Lepore, Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs."

(Representatives for Ralph Lauren, Betsey Johnson and Marc Jacobs said their respective labels would be showing spring/summer 2011 collections in New York in September as they have in past seasons, with no plans to participate in a Los Angeles event in October.)

Costa said that an additional 20 designer submissions were in the process of being vetted and that plans call for the debut event to feature 30 to 50 designers showing their spring/summer 2011 collections.

"And we’re already working on the March production," Costa added, "which we already think is going to be double or triple the size. There's a 70,000-square-foot location under renovation near Staples [Center] that we plan to use next season."

We asked Costa about using the name "Los Angeles Fashion Week" -- which is how the event is referred to in press materials and information packets -- and she told us the name is likely to change once a title sponsor is locked in; something akin to "$YOUR NAME HERE$ Los Angeles Fashion Week," the way "Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York" has long referred specifically to the tented shows at Bryant Park, with other New York Fashion Week events taking place across the city. 

Ideally that's the case, because using the name "Los Angeles Fashion Week" coupled with the Web URL lafwofficial.com gives the misleading impression that this effort enjoys some sort of official status as the city's one-and-only fashion week destination -- which is far from the case.

While most of the details are still forthcoming, several groups that staged shows last season have indicated they have events planned for October. Among them are LA Fashion Weekend at Sunset Gower Studios (on the calendar for Oct. 15-17), Concept LA Fashion Week (specific dates are pending, but organizer Brady Westwater said it will run during Los Angeles market week, which is scheduled for Oct. 15-9), and plans for a new Beverly Hills Fashion Week  -- which organizer Barbara Graff says will be the subject of an announcement slated for the end of August.

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: Designers showing their collections in March during last season's assorted Los Angeles fashion week events, included (from left) Battalion, MartinMartin and Jen Awad. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.

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