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Fashion : A SPECIAL REPORT: SPRING INTO FALL : In Profile : Yes, Yes, Yvette : For Yvette Crosby, Fashion Is All About Getting People Stirred Up and Talking


When Yvette Crosby produced her fashion show, "L.A. My Way," last September, it was a position statement on fashion. She mixed the collections of New York designers Patricia Clyne and Carmelo Pomodoro with three California collections, and hired world-class models Iman, Naomi Campbell, Marpessa and others to wear the clothes.

"We have to speak their language and use the same tools," she insists, if California designers are to be recognized in the global fashion circle.

As an independent fashion show producer, Crosby has made it her mission to promote California designers. And her way has included staging some rather controversial events.

Before "My Way" she put on a show introducing the fashion-noir period of the late '80s. Not only were all the clothes and accessories black, so were all the models at a time when black models were virtually never used exclusively in a show.

More recently, Crosby's "90something" event featured models over age 35 wearing sheer T-shirts, skin-tight bicycle shorts and other California designer clothes usually thought to be best worn by younger women.

"Some of the editors in the audience were kind of shocked," Crosby recalls of these ventures. "That's great, if you ask me. Fashion is all about getting people stirred up and getting people to talk."

Many of the California designers are fiercely loyal to Crosby. "The fashion industry revolves around her," says James Tarantino, who considers Crosby the "backbone of public relations for the California designers."

Casting their lot with her is similar to bucking the Hollywood studio system and aligning with a creative but under-financed independent. It costs the designers $2,000 to participate in one of Crosby's multi-designer productions. That's $500 more than her prime competitor charges. And that competitor happens to be the enormously powerful, far better established California Mart.

For $1,500 the Mart includes a designer in one of it's "fashion weeks," held each spring and fall. For that fee designers are publicized in the Mart's huge mailings that go out to retail store buyers and the media. They also are included in promotional activities surrounding the shows.

"I don't like being cast in an adversarial position, but I feel there has to be an alternative," Crosby says. Ironically, she used to work at the Mart as fashion director, before she formed her own company. But her dislike hasn't stopped her from putting on an increasingly popular show.

"People see her name and know it will be a good show," says Tereje Arnesen, the marketing director of the Eastern Columbia building, a mini-mart just a few doors away from the vast Cal Mart, which covers an entire city block. Arnesen hires Crosby to put on shows in his building. "The designer names pull in the retailers but Yvette has a following," he says.

Avant-garde designer Pepito Albert shows in Crosby's events and believes the extra money is worth it. Crosby does a considerable mailing, can lure in the fashion press, and, says Albert, "she's more adventurous, more daring and she likes to experiment."

Crosby instituted many changes at the Mart during her 4 1/2-year tenure. When she arrived in 1984 she found Mart shows to be merely product parades. To jazz them up she began to stage big opening numbers with lighting and set changes. She took the shows out of the Mart's fashion theater, a dreary room with all the charm of a turnpike restaurant's banquet room, and into downtown warehouses, circus-sized tents and pool side at hotels.

"It was a big deal at the time, even controversial to consider taking the buyers out of the mart," Crosby remembers. "But I kept thinking, 'Hip, we have to get hip.' "

In 1985, she was quick to recognize the impact music videos would have on designers of junior and contemporary market collections. For a show dubbed "Ramp Rock," Crosby flanked the runway with video monitors playing rock 'n' roll videos. The clothes that were shown reflected the trends that were coming from the new fashion medium. Both David Morse, one of the Mart's general partners, and Crosby maintain their parting in the fall of 1988 was amicable. But their differences are symptomatic of the dissension forming within the Los Angeles fashion community's rank and file in search of new and better ways to present California fashion.

"Yvette's vision is too press-oriented, rather than commercially salable." Morse maintains.

For her part, Crosby says the Morse family members who head the California Mart, are "landlords. They are not fashion people."

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