L.A. Fashion Week headed for a rocky 2009

An organized, cohesive Los Angeles Fashion Week for March 2009 may be the latest victim of the flagging economy, with two groups tabling their efforts until October and a third reluctant to become the standard-bearer.

Reveal Los Angeles, a new hybrid runway show/fashion expo scheduled to launch March 20 during the California Market Center’s fall market week, announced Dec. 12 that it was delaying its debut until October. “It’s due to the economic situation,” said Sara Stein, the event’s local PR representative, who added that organizer IDG World Expo would have more information after the new year.

It was the latest blow for L.A. Fashion Week, which has been struggling to find its own identity. Several months ago, Davis Factor, co-owner of Smashbox Studios, which has produced the twice-yearly Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runway shows in partnership with events producer IMG for the last 10 seasons, told The Times that the partnership would end with October’s round of shows in Culver City.


Like Reveal, Factor had hoped to fill the void with a fashion-focused event of his own, but his plans too were derailed by the economy, and he doesn’t expect to jump into any new venture until fall 2009. “We’re trying to make something happen,” Factor said recently. “But probably not in March -- it’s more likely that we’ll have an announcement in March about what we’re planning for October.”

That leaves just Gen Art’s New Garde showcase of up-and-coming talent tentatively scheduled for March 13 and BOXeight, an arts and entertainment collective, on the March calendar. (Downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week, still in the nascent stages, is shooting to debut in mid-March, said fashion show producer Leanna Lewis, who had hoped to launch last season.)

BOXeight founder Pete Gurnz told The Times that when his group returns for March market week, its collection of runway shows and events will expand to four or five days and as many as 20 designers (, that’s three short of the final Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox).

So it may sound as though BOXeight becomes the de facto L.A. Fashion Week. But Gurnz says thanks but no thanks.

“I don’t think BOXeight is necessarily ready to be, or planning to be, representative of L.A. Fashion Week in its entirety,” Gurnz said. “We have a good niche little thing and I like what we do, but once all the heads turn to us and we’re sort of responsible for all of L.A. fashion. . . . We’re not really interested in being that kind of company. I’d rather leave that to the corporate conglomerates and expos.”

Kevan Hall, a designer who has shown at Smashbox Studios for years, hopes the lack of a single, organized runway event like those in seasons past will spark some creativity among L.A.'s designers. “I hope people will think of some alternative ways to show -- like they do in New York, where there are exciting things happening all over the city,” he said. Hall had already planned to do exactly that, locking in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a charity runway show on March 19, which he anticipates will draw about 700 people.

“This can be an exciting time of transition,” he said. “It might spark people to think outside of the box -- no pun intended -- and then we’ll all see what happens in October.”