What would L.A. Fashion week be without a star-studded front row? A dud, which is exactly what it was. According to WWD, reporters for TMZ.com, People and In Style frantically scanned the front row at the Heatherette show in Los Angeles last week looking for major stars to interview. Guess what, there wern’t any A-listers (then again we are talking about Heatherette).
There was however Cat Deeley (who?), Lydia Hearst (daughter of Patricia), and Jenna Jameson, but they walked the runway.
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This was Los Angeles Fashion Week in a nutshell. Actress Jaime Pressly was treated as a major designer (and she showed off-site) as was Nicky Hilton. Even local retailers — let alone major national ones — couldn’t be lured to the shows.
"I couldn’t sit through another show if you paid me," said John Eshaya, vice president of women’s wear at Ron Herman, which is renowned for fostering local talent. "My team just got back from Europe and we’ve been seeing shows since the second week in September," said Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer of Saks Fifth Avenue. "It’s now the end of October. To pick up and go to L.A…it’s not going to happen. We have a business to run."
When it came to the designers, the runway parade seemed to be one little-known name after another. Top Los Angeles-based designers such as Max Azria, Monique Lhuillier, Jenni Kayne, Trina Turk, Rodarte, Magda Berliner and Michelle Mason either show in New York or not at all.
"We don’t show in Los Angeles because of the timing," Azria said. "It’s almost a month after the New York shows. But I think [fashion week] is relevant to the industry — California has a fashion culture all its own."
Sue Wong, who has shown at Smashbox every season since the beginning in fall 2003, said she might have reached the end of the road. "It seems like the quality of people that are showing has gone down. I don’t recognize names. I might break off to my own separate venue. I might have gone as far as I can go with IMG [the fashion week’s producer]."
Fern Mallis, IMG Fashion’s senior vice president, said, the shows are mainly about generating press. But if free p.r. was the goal, there were few national or international media at the shows to generate it. No wonder: Most of the collections appeared to be derivative of what was already shown on the hundreds of runways in Paris, Milan, London and New York, and there were no emerging trends. Looks were often sent down the runway with trailing threads, missing buttons and unfinished seams.
Randolph Duke, who last staged a runway show at New York Fashion Week in 2001, decided to present his couture collection at Smashbox instead of at his Los Angeles home just four weeks before the event. "Over cocktails, I agreed rather impulsively," he said. "I think they gave me too many martinis. I woke up and said, ‘What have I done?’ But I pulled it together and didn’t think too much about expectations. It was intended purely as a press show. I did it so people would realize I wasn’t dead."
Duke continued, "I do think a tremendous effort has been made to up the ante, but one of the things prohibiting that is constantly talking about how it’s not good enough. You can’t compare it to Milan or New York. For anything to be creative you have to stop talking about it and become it."
"We could be on the verge of an entirely new format, but we’re not seeing it because we are so crippled by the comparisons," Duke said. "I’d love to show at a studio soundstage. I see L.A. that way, not on a stark runway. It’s about glamour, illusion. It’s Hollywood, so why not take advantage of that?"