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Why L.A. Fashion Week gets no buzz

Why L.A. Fashion Week gets no buzz
Los Angeles Fashion Week kicked off last week. (PAUL BUCK / EPA)

Los Angeles is in the midst of its fashion week, a twice-yearly event when designers and brands send their latest collections down the runway.

L.A.'s celebration of style follows a month of fashion shows in cities including New York, Paris and Milan. In L.A., shows kicked off last week and will continue into this weekend.

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In comparison with its established counterparts, fashion week in Los Angeles has been riddled with drama. The complaint among those in the local retail industry is that the showcase is perennially disorganized, which detracts from any attempts to legitimize it in the eyes of the fashion world.

Here are five things you may not know about L.A. Fashion Week:

Several organizations offer sometimes competing events during the weeks

Instead of an umbrella group that sets the calender, three organizations -- Art Hearts Fashion, Style Fashion Week and LA Fashion Week -- are all putting on shows and events clustered around two weeks in October.

In the past, even more people have been involved, including the Los Angeles Fashion Council and Concept Los Angeles. L.A. fashion week has been without a lead event since a partnership between Smashbox Studios and events producer IMG ended in 2008.

Just Google "L.A. Fashion Week" and you'll come up with at least half a dozen sites announcing past or current involvement in the event.

"Nobody's figured it out," said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Assn.

Metchek said that in comparison with New York, Los Angeles gets very little buzz.

"The New York shows have the media -- the entire front row is Vogue, Elle, the European media is there," she said. "We don't have fashion media here. They're not there anymore."

L.A. is more about emerging designers than huge names

Although well-known brands such as Betsey Johnson and Nicole Miller do showcase their wares, Los Angeles has a higher concentration of aspiring or up-and-coming designers sending models down the runway.

Some of the organizers also feature a mix that heavily favors international designers. Style Fashion Week, for example, has more than half of its designers with shows coming from around the world.

It's unknown if participating designers get a boost

Kelsi Smith, who has helped produce shows for L.A. for several years, said she finally stopped doing events when she saw how little real help it offered designers.

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"The problem of L.A. fashion week is it's at the end of the buying cycle," she said. Buyers from department stores to smaller boutiques have often "settled their money."

Metchek was even more blunt.

"It's usually people who don't understand the business," she said. "It's always the ones who are new to the business or have no idea who their customer is."

But fashion show organizers say that designers who do a show or presentation get valuable exposure, if not a direct bump in sales.

"It's kind of like a leaping-off point," said Erin Whitaker, who produces Art Hearts Fashion. "They are able to start here, and we can showcase them in New York once they get a following."

The minds behind L.A. Fashion Week are trying to bring more organization

Veronica Kerzner, the founder and producer of Style Fashion Week, said she is actively working with the city of Los Angeles and the L.A. Fashion District to create a "central point" for L.A.

She said many people who have gotten involved in the past underestimate how much work such an event takes to plan -- from raising money to wrangling designers.

Her organization just took over Fashion Week LA, yet another group that had once been a competitor.

"People think we are a mess and it does look like we are completely disorganized," Kerzner said. "We're trying to work on that."

Fashion weeks all over the world are fighting for relevancy

Shoppers and buyers now have access to detailed photos of clothing directly on their smartphones, tablets and computers -- which is diminishing the importance of fashion weeks in general for the retail industry, experts said.

New York Fashion Week this year lost its main sponsor, Mercedes-Benz. It also got booted out of its Lincoln Center home, reportedly for lease violations.

"It's a global problem," said Smith, who calls fashion week "a big circus show."

"I haven't seen business happening at fashion week for a while," she added. "Buyers may be going to trade shows and straight to designers they already have a relationship with."

Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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