By SHARIFAH CHAMMAS Staff Reporter

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may be excited about the L.A. Fashion industry, but some industry insiders aren't all that excited about his support.

They want celebrities of a higher wattage.

"We carry celebrity clothing lines," said Fraser Ross, owner of the Beverly Hills-based Kitson boutique stores. "And I expect them to support the L.A. fashion industry and my stores the way I am supporting them."

Villaraigosa will give a welcoming address at this week's Market Week, which opens March 14. The three-day event attracts retail buyers representing departments and boutiques locally, nationally and internationally, to view the lines of local designers. Five thousand buyers have been invited to the event's opening breakfast.

"It's high time that our fashion industry gained the full recognition it deserves on a global basis," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "Market Week will increase our visibility by showcasing some of the most dynamic designers working in L.A. today, while giving observers a glimpse of the future fashion."

It's the latest step in the mayor's talking up L.A.'s role in the apparel world.

Villaraigosa formed Voices of Fashion last year. It's a city-run advisory group with the goal of addressing issues in the sector.

Villaraigosa's support of the fashion industry comes after New York politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have taken lead roles in championing the sector's role in the Big Apple's polish.

"The city of New York and its mayors have been highly involved in its city's fashion industry for many years I'm talking decades," said Kent Smith, executive director of the Los Angeles Fashion District, a division of the downtown's Business Improvement District. "And the result, over time, will bring enormous dividends to the city. The mayor here gets it. He is very enthusiastic and has embraced the fashion industry more so than any mayor in my memory."

Cynthia Ruiz, head of Voices of Fashion, said the mayor's appearance at Market Week is precisely the kind of support the Los Angeles fashion industry needs. Smith agreed.

But Ross of Kitson wants to remind Villaraigosa to wear the creations of L.A.-based designers at Market Week. It's an issue he also raises about other celebrities.

"Halle Berry put L.A. designer Elie Saab on the map when she wore his dress to the Oscars," Ross said. "Why can't Nicole Kidman, who lives in L.A., wear an L.A.-based designer instead of a European one?"

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