News & Trends: Up until a few weeks ago, it looked like this season's LA Fashion Week wasn't going to happen at all. The backstory is complicated, but we'll try to make it as simple as possible: IMG, which runs the shows just about everywhere except Paris and Milan, pulled out of its partnership with LA's Smashbox Studios last fall, effectively putting an end to the city's headlining fashion event. LA Fashion Week had devolved into something of a joke, however, filled with celebrity "designers," D-list front rows and organizational inefficiency that often left the few worthy press members and buyers out in the cold. Months went by without any official news of a replacement, until bids started trickling in early this month.
First, a three-day roster of shows was announced by BOXEight, an organization that's hosted alternative shows during LA Fashion Week since 2007. Next came word of the City of LA Fashion Week, founded by a group of former BOXEight staffers, which swiped several of BOXEight's under-the-radar designers for its own two-day event. And then of course there's Downtown LA Fashion Week, a one-night benefit for LA's ailing Museum of Contemporary Art, which is set to include a vintage fashion show hosted by Decades as well as an installation honoring local designer Louis Verdad. To make things even more complicated, a host of independent designers (Whitley Kros, Kimberly Ovitz, Idol Radec and TenOverSix) are staging solo presentations, in the forms of boutique trunk shows and gallery installations. But one thing at a time.
The BOXEight shows have just come to a close, having marked a new chapter for LA fashion shows. Unlike the former LAFW, this event was open to the public, which lent an oddly democratic feel to the proceedings. Furthermore, each designer seemed to have been selected because they represented a distinct aspect of LA fashion, rather than for their ability to buy a slot on the runway.
Thanks to a partnership with Gen Art, BOXEight's opening night featured established designers Raquel Allegra, Society for Rational Dress and Grai-all critically acclaimed labels, but which don't traditionally have an LA Fashion Week presence. Recent grads such as Yotam Solomon and David Alexander shared the schedule with rising stars like Maxine Dillon and Laeken, both of whom were named Gen Art Fresh Faces last fall.
Menswear had a bigger presence than ever-from joint gender collections such as Future Heretics and UNIF to the solo catwalks of COA and Sahaja. martinMARTIN showed the darker, more gothic side of LA fashion, while new label Skin.Graft exposed the stylings of the Neo-Victorian movement, boasting an eclectic audience filled with drag queens and top hats, showgirl headdresses and handlebar mustaches. It might not exactly be Lauren Conrad's entourage, but the show definitely made for more interesting people watching-and a more enlightening event.
The fashion on offer may not have been particularly groundbreaking, and the organization may have been chaotic (we've overheard more than a few complaints from designers unhappy with the logistics behind the shows), but it's important to keep in mind that this is the first time the BOXEight shows have been open to the public, in such a large space (the historic Los Angeles Theatre) and with so many designers crammed into such a short time frame. All in all, the event wasn't the last minute disaster some were expecting, and it'll be interesting to see what role it plays in fashion weeks to come.
Editor-in-Chief JC Report