The End of Fashion Week as We Know It: Wailing Outside Lauren Conrad, the Dead Ferret Con and Other Scenes From L.A.'s Last Smashbox Catwalks 

With IMG and Smashbox parting ways, L.A. Fashion Week's Culver City era comes to a close

Wednesday, Oct 22 2008

It will never be like this again. The final three days of Los Angeles Fashion Week are like the last days of school, like The Breakfast Club, only everyone is playing Molly Ringwald’s character. It’s not just the end of a season, it’s the end of an era. Producers IMG and brothers Davis and Dean Factor have parted ways after playing host to L.A.’s experiment in runway fashion. The shows will no longer take place at the Factor boys’ clubhouse Smashbox. The future of high fashion in the city remains unclear.

A certain not-unpleasant regularity sets in after a couple of days. You get up, schlep over on the free shuttle with the makeup artists, hairstylists and photographers. Then get in line for your ticket. Then get in another line to wait for the stage doors to open. The similarity between Fashion Week and Disneyland is remarkable. There’s a lot of standing in various lines for what feels like hours, followed by the joy of claiming a seat and the special thrill that signifies the start of a show, when the burly men peel back the plastic runway tarp to reveal a landing strip the exact texture and whiteness of a boiled egg. Then the bright and shining cacophony of light, color, pattern, movement, clothes and sound, which lasts the length of a sigh.

Velvet Ropes and Dead Ferrets

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“It’s not like it’s Julia Roberts or anything,” says a photographer standing on the curb near the back entrance of Smashbox. “It’s fucking Kim Kardashian. She was begging everyone to take her photo a year ago. I’d rather photograph a real thespian, a real artist. Not a booty artist.”

In the line for Joseph Domingo, I stand next to a veteran velvet-rope jumper, a woman wearing a bouclé suit and a dead ferret. Along with the ferret, who wears a mournful but friendly expression and whose name is Harry, the woman is accessorized with a 1940s veiled hat and a suitcase. She’s been telling people that her suitcase is filled with condoms. Her ebulliently drunk stylist friend has a front-row ticket. The woman has none. It doesn’t matter, she assures me. She’s been successfully sneaking into fashion shows for 10 years. She will work the magic of the dead ferret to get herself into the show. Her foolproof method involves looking fabulous and taking any available seat and refusing to budge. “Though this might be the year that breaks me,” she says dubiously, as her drunk friend begins to lick the ink off the tickets.

Inside, minutes later, she is being interviewed by a camera crew, so her technique seems to work. Soon the models issue forth in beautifully tailored shifts cut in layers to resemble koi fish scales; in asymmetrical one-shouldered gowns that zip cleverly up the side of the torso along the seam; in peach and sand and coconut white and aqua and sapphire — a warm, milky, sweet tropical drink of a collection. Domingo emerges for a bow, humble and gracious.

Sometimes, even those of us who are supposed to be inside the shows don’t make it in. Such is the case later with the free-for-all melee that is reality-TV star Lauren Conrad’s show, her second collection. A rumor circulates that MTV overbooked the event, because nothing makes for better reality television than real-life chaos. Crammed into the fashion reality scene tragically unfolding at the door, I despair of ever seeing Conrad’s designs, despite the talk that she doesn’t do any of the designing herself. I despair for the guy bawling his eyes out on the street, shouting, “Lauren! Lauren! I love you, Lauren!” I despair for the 20-plus hours I spent engaged in “research” watching The Hills. I will never get those hours or brain cells back.

Would You Wear That?

At Lana Fuchs, I sit next to an importer. “I’m about the bottom line, which is: Will it sell? How much money can I make off this? There are maybe 10 good looks here,” she says of the 30-some outfits and then adds, “I’m confused. Is she designing for older women or younger women? Older women would never show their upper arms.”

Fuchs sends out flouncy, frilly dresses, one festooned with a mass of cutout flowers, another with butterfly prints — butterflies, ruffles and ribbons are a burgeoning trend for next spring. A model in a red gown with braided fabric dangling like snakes saunters by. “Let’s see if she gets any buyers for that one.”

“That’s great for editorial,” the girl on my other side opines about a white halter dress vaguely reminiscent of the coffee-filter-esque collars Spanish Conquistadors wore. She’s a stylist. She cheers when Saleisha from America’s Next Top Model walks down the runway. Saleisha winks.

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