YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The party's over for gate-crashers

IMG and Smashbox are taking steps to cut down on `lobby sleaze': less alcohol and more refined invitation lists.

February 03, 2007|Caroline Ryder | Special to The Times

"There's something in the fashion world called a 'lobby sleaze,' " says Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion, the company that produces fashion weeks in L.A., New York, Miami and many other cities. "You get them everywhere -- especially in L.A."

She's right -- last season, the lushes and the nobodies were out in full force at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, the main venue for the Los Angeles Fashion Week runway shows. They gulped free Gran Centenario tequila cocktails, pilfered gift bags and slipped uninvited into front-row seats. Afterward, they swapped business cards and chitchatted with B-list soap stars, Paris Hilton look-alikes and gate-crashers who had congregated in the lobby.

Jenni Kayne, an L.A. designer who showed at Smashbox four times before moving her runway show to New York, says going to L.A. Fashion Week is "like going to a club -- they don't even know what shows they are going to."

Well, it looks like the party's over.

IMG and Smashbox are planning a series of measures to make this season's L.A. Fashion Week, which kicks off March 18, a more exclusive event. Not only will lobby sleazes have a harder time getting in, even if they do squeeze past tightened security, they may be disappointed by what they find inside -- less alcohol.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday February 06, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 62 words Type of Material: Correction
L.A. Fashion Week: An article and headline in Saturday's Calendar section about making L.A. Fashion Week a more exclusive event incorrectly quoted Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion, the event's producer. The quote, taken by telephone, referred to "lobby sleaze." It should have read: "There's something in the fashion world called 'lobby fleas.' You get them everywhere - especially in L.A."

"We want less drinking in the lobby," said Mallis, who also plans to turn down the lobby music. "There's a plentiful amount of free alcohol, and that tends to create a certain kind of atmosphere."

As for the shows, designers will be asked to refine their invitation lists and refrain from "inviting 1,200 people to a 600-capacity show."

"We want audiences to be made up of people who are actually in the business of fashion," Mallis said. The VIP room, which will be located in what was formerly the writers' lounge, will be smaller and limited to celebrities and the media, with more of a "green room vibe," Mallis said.

And the former VIP room will house the design suites -- the showrooms or booth spaces for designers not doing runway shows. In previous seasons, the suites were held at H.D. Buttercup in Culver City and at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Ultimately, L.A. Fashion Week may move out of Smashbox altogether.

"I actually thought it might happen next season," says Davis Factor. He and his brother Dean, co-founders of Smashbox, have been scouting alternative venues for 18 months, looking at movie studios, hotels and warehouses.

Mallis, however, is inclined to keep L.A. Fashion Week in Culver City for now: "We were downtown in the beginning, and all we heard was people complaining about how difficult it was to get there. I find Culver City much more accessible."

Nonetheless, a new location could help complete an image overhaul. When the event launched in September 2003, prominent labels such as Jeremy Scott and Ghost were on the schedule. Last season, Wal-Mart had a runway show for its cheap-chic Metro 7 line.

While some talented designers, including Louis Verdad and Kevan Hall, remain loyal to L.A., they are increasingly outnumbered by local luminaries who flee to the New York runways -- or, like Juicy Couture and Chrome Hearts, who don't participate at all.

Will the changes be enough to attract more talent to L.A.?

It's too soon to tell. The March show schedule has not been released.

Los Angeles Times Articles