Fashion's Night Out Los Angeles: A Tacky Evening at the Mall?

Why is L.A.'s Fashion's Night Out event at the Beverly Center?
Why is L.A.'s Fashion's Night Out event at the Beverly Center?

Starting tomorrow, September 8, Fashion's Night Out is making a return to Los Angeles, where retailers will keep their doors open late and the fashion forward crowd will be out to party and shop. It's a big deal in New York City and locally in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

But Los Angeles -- which has its own version separate from Beverly Hills and WeHo -- doesn't seem to care all that much about one of fashion's biggest nights, even though Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa boasts that "L.A. is one of the major fashion capitals of the world."

"For Los Angeles," says Darren Gold, owner of the boutique Alpha and chair of the Avenues of Art, Fashion & Design District in West Hollywood, "it's contained in a mall. It's very tacky and odd, and has a very corporate feeling to it."

Fashion's Night Out encourages shoppers to forget their recession worries and to buy new clothes. Boutiques, department stores and fashion houses across the country will keep their doors open late, with many of them hosting parties that headline special guests and promotions.

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Founded by Vogue's legendary editor Anna Wintour, with support from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the annual event started in New York a few years ago and now has gained global momentum.

The financial success of the event has made cities and retailers throughout the world participate in Fashion's Night Out, with local governments often working closely with fashion retailers. The cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood all work independently with Fashion's Night Out organizers.

So why is the epicenter of Fashion's Night Out in Los Angeles, which the Mayor's Office helps to plan and organize, located at two run-of-the-mill shopping malls: the Beverly Center and Westfield Century City Mall?

Teena Sahebi, a manager at the designer boutique Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles, wishes the city was more creative and involved.

"It's a shame that the city doesn't get behind it," she says. "Our event is completely self-done, privately. The area and the neighborhood [around Melrose Place and La Cienega Boulevard] could really benefit -- you could make it an Art Walk type of event."

L.A., critics say, isn't doing much to utilize Fashion's Night Out as a way to promote and market local designers and boutiques that shape L.A.'s fashion landscape -- unlike New York, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood.

West Hollywood, for example, has been working since April to make the event successful for local retailers, providing fliers, a website, and posters, as well as free shuttles to connect the various action-packed locations, says Maribel Louie, an economic development analyst for the city of West Hollywood. "West Hollywood sees it as an opportunity for the businesses," says Gold, "which is the intended purpose of the event."

Beverly Hills is closing off a three-block stretch of Rodeo Drive to turn Fashion's Night Out into a full-on street fair -- complete with a Ferris wheel. A purchase from a Beverly Hills retailer will get you a free ride and a view of the evening's action from 60 feet in the air.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been very active in working with Fashion's Night Out organizers. And in that city, an app for smart phone users has been unveiled to keep people informed on all the events and after-hours happenings.

Villaraigosa is merely making special appearances at the Beverly Center and Century City mall -- venues dominated by chain clothing stores and food courts. Requests for comment from the Mayor's Office went unanswered.

Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.

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