Fashion Los Angeles makes a serious bid to revive L.A. Fashion Week
Since IMG and Smashbox stopped hosting what was widely perceived as the official Los Angeles Fashion Week in 2008, there have been scores of suitors trying to romance that fickle beast — making bold claims about reviving and renewing a city-recognized fashion week in L.A.
Most hopefuls quickly fell by the wayside, unable to pin down sponsors or show-worthy designers — or both.
So normally we wouldn't give much credence to organizations claiming to be the "official" producers of a new, spiffed-up fashion week. But the extravagant plans and extensive legwork put forth by a new company, Fashion Los Angeles, has us believing that L.A. Fashion Week may be living and breathing again.
The company, which was launched in early 2009 by partners Michael Venedicto and Jeff Warrington, two Angelenos with backgrounds in graphic design and marketing (Warrington) and awards- and fashion-show producing (Venedicto), plans to launch a fashion week from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7 in a village built from prefab buildings on top of a parking lot near the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Yes, you read that right. The duo plans to erect a mini-city of small and large venues (which they will truck in for the week), offering brands various platforms — many of which will be digital — in which to showcase their work.
The company will release the names of its major sponsors at an invite-only event on Sept. 15, but Venedicto said the two have a deal with a tech firm that will make it possible to show a large portion of the presentations through new media technology including touch screens, live feeds, imagery and film.
"Only about one-third of the 65 designers we hope to have will actually have runway shows," Venedicto said. "Not every designer is appropriate for the runway -- like [lines based on] jewelry, shoes and handbags."
No brands have been announced for February (and with a project of this magnitude, that lineup will make or break the event), but the roster won't be limited to L.A. brands. "We're also looking to reach national and international designers," Venedicto said. "We've had around 50 people inquire about [showing]. And we're currently putting together an advisory board that will decide who presents and how they present."
The partners plan to woo major retailers to the shows the old-fashioned way — by paying for their trips. "We will be paying for some buyers to fly in," he stated frankly. "We’ll have to take care of certain people to get their attention." And retailers not on site for the event will be given access to seasons that will be produced online, before deciding if they want to take the plunge and fly to L.A. for the event.
The company's financial transparency is a huge point of difference from past players who've tried to give L.A. Fashion Week a go.
Venedicto said Fashion Los Angeles is close to closing a deal with the mayor's office to get the official seal of a city-sanctioned event — and that approval process has stipulations. "They've been burned by other companies before ...," he said, "and they’re putting a very stringent program in place for us to prove ourselves. So we're in the last leg of approvals."
To get Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's seal, the company has to be funded a minimum of 55% — which Venedicto said will be a reality as of next week — and those funds will need to be placed in an escrow account to secure them. "We can’t actually utilize 80% of the funds in the account, so the platform can be accomplished and there’s no chance we would roll out," Venedicto said. "We actually felt more comfortable doing it that way. We’re stand-up guys."
The deal has proven popular with sponsors, which include Caruso Affiliated and reportedly a major car company that will be announced at the Sept. 15 event. "I’ve done some major presentations, and have had a long-reaching career," said Venedicto, who's produced for nearly every major awards show, including the Emmys and the Oscars. "But despite that, I have to prove myself to the fashion industry. Escrow account has given us some legitimacy."
The company is currently focusing on the February shows, which will put L.A. Fashion Week on the worldwide show schedule before the New York shows (it's historically been at the tail end of the schedule) to coincide with L.A.'s awards season, which Venedicto hopes to incorporate into the event.
But as a year-round company, it will also be working with sponsors on local events, such as Bloggers Café, which showcases designers to select groups of bloggers, and -- eventually -- mobile boutiques and fashion shows housed on flatbed trucks that will tour college campuses.
"I tip my hat to the other producers who have tried to do this," Venedicto said. "But they’re never garnered everyone’s support. They’ve never gotten PR support, city support and designer support all at once ... We’re halfway there in terms of truly making an incredible splash in February. We want our whole industry to have a voice. And that’s why I started to participate. I saw some wonderful possibilities."
Illustration: The Fashion Los Angeles Village, as designed by Marmol Radziner. Credit: Fashion Los Angeles