Los Angeles wrapped up a week of designer shows that had as little as possible in common with that other well-known fashion extravaganza known as the Oscars. L.A.'s fashion week is an indie production--a loosely organized effort with one and sometimes two shows a day by established and fledgling designers who typically sell their wares in a concentrated network of boutiques or their own stores.
Unlike well-oiled fashion weeks in New York and Europe, designers here often present avant-garde collections before an audience built mostly of friends, family, fellow designers, stylists and a smattering of press and buyers. The many novice designers add a relaxed, noncompetitive feel to the shows.
That quirky atmosphere is exactly what makes the week intriguing, even if the clothes aren't setting trends. The common themes of the week--remaking vintage clothes, asymmetry, and sexy evening wear--can't be called new concepts.
Yet Los Angeles designers are offering a new idea in their approach to the business. Individual designers are acting more like artists who happen to work in clothing. Few who staged shows this week have established national distribution and many are relative newcomers--Cornell Collins, Magda Berliner, Jared Gold and loyandford. Their highly personal visions of clothing prevent mass manufacture, often because of the vintage fabrics or detailed handwork. However, their anti-Gap message may inspire other, more commercial designers to pursue unique viewpoints.
L.A.'s Fashion Week, which began March 29 and ended Wednesday, is hardly a trade show, and it won't persuade West Coast boutique buyers to leave their shops for seven days to see clothes that aren't destined for a production line. But several fashion promoters are hoping to create a more organized fashion week by next season--one that could translate into a meaningful event, for both press and buyers.
One thing's for sure. Los Angeles fashion is a lot like the city itself--diverse, hard to navigate and a bit kooky, but refreshingly fun.