New York Fashion Week had Vera Wang gowns worth thousands of dollars. Miami Beach Fashion Week had sleek and exotic Badgley Mischka swimsuits. Los Angeles Fashion Week will have casual wear made from 100 percent organic cotton that was never sprayed with pesticides.
This year at L.A. Fashion Week running October 14-18 the theme will be a quintessentially Los Angeles one: "green."
"We figured, let's do something to raise awareness," said Davis Factor, the director of L.A. Fashion Week, "in order to gain press for the event and get word out about the environment."
The green fashion week will also serve as a platform to launch a new line of environmentally minded cosmetics by Smashbox Enterprises called Green Room, and to promote an eco-friendly car made by Mercedes Benz, Factor said. The two companies are sponsors of the fashion week.
Beyond that, the green theme will be a big opportunity for two local designers, Ecoganic and Evidence of Evolution, to show their environment-friendly designs.
But it was no cakewalk to get on the catwalk. Ecoganic, a designer and manufacturer in South El Monte that makes clothing from pesticide-free cotton, is so small it wasn't sure it could afford the event.
After being chosen this past summer as one of 29 lines to appear out of about 250 that applied, Ecoganic couldn't find sponsors to offset the cost of appearing at the show.
"You have to pay for the venues, signage, models, makeup, hair," said Mallary Sante, a spokesperson for the 25-employee company. "We are so small, that if we had to pay for all of that, there is no way we would have been able to afford it."
For a bare-bones presentation, the company needed $10,000 to stage a show in the smallest venue in Smashbox Studios in Culver City, where the event is held.
Ecoganic actually removed itself from the program when it couldn't find the funding. But about three weeks ago, event organizer IMG World, a New York-based sports, entertainment and media firm, called with the news that Whole Foods was willing to sponsor Ecoganic's venue costs and backstage catering.
"L.A. Fashion Week has an eco-focus this year and we have a show that is 100 percent organic, so they were interested in getting us involved," Sante said.
After doing much of their publicity work in-house, Ecoganic will end up paying between $2,500 and $3,000.
"It isn't very expensive, but for us it is very expensive," she said. "If we put money into something, it is usually trade shows like Magic or Coterie."
The event's backers also subsidized the participation of Koreatown's Evidence of Evolution. Ali Alborzi, the firm's co-founder, said his firm would be paying between $10,000 and $15,000 for the show.
"We jumped at the opportunity to get our message out about eco-fashion," said Alborzi.
The Gallery, a PR and marketing firm that promotes eco-friendly fabrics, will put on a show featuring six other green fashion companies.
Factor, who also is the chief creative officer of Smashbox, said he doubted the green theme would greatly affect most of the styles on display.
"As far as helping the event become a better fashion event, the green theme isn't doing that," Factor said. "We would have famous designers showing anyway."
The most well known L.A. designers will shell out much more than the two eco-friendly firms to showcase their wares. Kevan Hall will pay in the neighborhood of $50,000 and Sue Wong will pay between $65,000 and $75,000.
Continuing the green theme, London-based CarbonNeutral Co. will test and calculate how much carbon dioxide is emitted at the event. Lights and fans will be turned off earlier in the night, programs will be printed on recycled paper and each sponsor will offer a green initiative.
Fashion Week is a bi-yearly event that showcases predominantly L.A. designers and is attended by roughly 30,000 people, according to Factor.
Although it has been a well-known event attracting extensive publicity, some in the L.A. fashion industry have said in recent years that they feel fashion trade shows are a better venue for designers looking to sell than Los Angeles Fashion Week.
The Market Weeks at the downtown California Fashion Market, held one week before and two weeks after Fashion Week, draw domestic and international buyers looking to fill out their spring lines.
Alhambra-based designer Trina Turk has shown several times at L.A. Fashion Week, and spent about $50,000 on her shows, but stopped in 2004.
"I don't think that Fashion Week is taken seriously from a business standpoint," she said. "As much as I am a creative person and a designer, I am also running a business here. I don't think a lot of the buyers are at the shows. The orders are written in showrooms downtown."
Because L.A. Fashion Week dates don't directly overlap with the Market Weeks this year as they have at times in the past, buyers are less likely to attend, said Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association.
And in the past several years, L.A. Fashion Week has received less than stellar reviews and been criticized for over-emphasizing denim and lifestyle lines and a celebrity-heavy "rock and roll" attitude that buyers aren't interested in.
"It seems to have become more of a party than a place to do business," Turk said of the show.
Smashbox has taken several steps to make the event more conducive to business, including reducing the seating to make the events more exclusive, implementing crowd control measures and trying to raise the quality of the designers, Factor said.
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