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Parties and Shows Galore as This Season's L.A. Fashion Week Gets Going


L.A. Fashion Week starts today, and this season there are more shows than last year as well as lots of parties as the local fashion scene tries to rise to its red-carpet reputation. No one is pretending the five-day week will rival those in New York, Milan or Paris, but this season's events are attracting more attention, especially from the media.

CaliforniaMart, the downtown wholesale center of L.A.'s fashion and apparel business, will kick things off tonight with a runway show featuring contemporary and classic designers.

The mart, under its new owners, Hertz Investment Group, also is sponsoring tonight's Look Show at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The runway presentation will feature edgier streetwear designers who are not CalMart tenants, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Epoch and Lip Service.

CalMart and co-sponsor Private Circle clothing hope to attract celebs and stylists to an after-party on the club's roof with a rockabilly/Goth band, performance artists and DJs until 4 a.m. "We are making a statement," said CalMart executive marketing director Karen Mamont. "We are the fashion resource in this city."

But CalMart isn't the only forum for West Coast fashion. Three years ago, a group of young designers, including Cynthia Vincent, created the nonprofit group CLAD (Coalition of Los Angeles Designers) to promote themselves. "It's not right and not fair to have CaliforniaMart be responsible for West Coast fashion," said Vincent, who opened Aero & Co., a store for locally based designs, in Los Feliz last year. "Fashion has changed. There are more independent designers who don't want or need an umbrella like that."

CLAD is hosting a collective presentation Saturday with Monah Li, Rojas, Lisa B. and other designers at the Laboratory downtown. A few CLAD members who have the funds (including John Cherpas and Estevan Ramos) are mounting individual runway shows. Non-CLAD designers Michelle Mason and Magda Berliner will also present their spring lines this week.

For fledgling talent, Gen Art, a New York-based nonprofit arts organization, is hosting Fresh Faces in Fashion on Monday at the Shrine Auditorium. A runway show will feature pieces from Ina Celaya, Pete Lugo, Cornell Collins and others. The designers may be unknowns, but there's an open bar, and the host committee is a who's who of young Hollywood, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, China Chow and Rose McGowan. This is one of the week's only fashion shows open to the public. Tickets, $40, Information: (323) 692-9698.

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