Does L.A. need a Fashion Week? I know it smacks of heresy to even entertain such a question. After all, it was just last April that L.A. got a big-deal sponsored week — two competing ones in fact. This time around Smashbox and 7th on Sixth/Mercedes-Benz wised up and combined forces, presenting nearly 40 designers’ Fall 2004 collections. Alas, the partnership resulted in the most wildly uneven Fashion Week yet, one dominated by manufacturers rather than artists. Hoodies and sweatpants do not deserve a runway show. Ever. Too often, there was the sense that money — not talent — prevailed.

And that’s the crux of the problem: Any statement about L.A. design is diluted by including line after line that’s indistinguishable from what you find at the mall. There’s just so much more to design here than sportswear. And why kick off the week with Lloyd Klein, a Paris-based designer who survived a horrific car crash that caused him to miss his New York show earlier this year? As tragic as that was, L.A. is not a consolation prize — and Klein’s Beverly Hills–tacky leopard prints did nothing to set the standard. Any number of local designers should have been featured, from Richard Tyler to Eduardo Lucero (both sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, as was Klein and Pegah Anvarian).

Nony Tochterman took Petro Zillia to a smartly elegant new level without losing the incandescent wit that defines her work.

L.A. is never going to rise to the stature it deserves until we get a Fashion Week that’s dedicated to art. Commerce will follow. By promoting those designers who push fashion forward — and there’s a wealth of talent residing here — we will also make L.A. a mandatory stop for international press, top-tier stylists and high-end buyers. Now it’s anything but. Ironic, in a city that thrives on buzz.

Clearly, L.A. does need a Fashion Week, just not the one we had. However, rather than hash over what Fashion Week Fall 2004 wasn’t — it’s virtually the same critique I made last November after the Spring 2004 collections — I would like to make a few suggestions for the next. One of the greatest difficulties confronting many designers is the high cost of mounting a show — figure a minimum of $10,000 to $25,000 (depending upon the size of the show, the venue, etc.). In a business that often runs on the margins, that’s money needed to buy materials and fill orders. Consequently, putting on a show even once a year is a strain for many designers.

While some have been able to patch together sponsorships, why not get local companies involved, individually or in combinations, to fully sponsor a designer. I’d happily gaze upon the Trader Joe’s logo projected above the runway if it meant seeing smart ideas, cloth transformed. Perhaps celebrity clients could pick up the tab for a favored designer. We can make a civic statement as well as an artistic one.

After taking a season off, Rami Kashou returned with his most provocative collection yet — his wonderfully intricate details highlighted a sleekly refined vision.

Most important, of course, is the designer selection process. Talent has to rule, not money. There is something to be said for those unpredictable, raw, edgy days when designers put on their own shows all over town. But for L.A. to become the style destination it should be, we do need to have the weeks organized under one umbrella.

I’d love to see Bob Mackie open the next Fashion Week, or get Rick Owens (now Paris-based) to make a triumphant homecoming or David Cardona, who’s just returned from Cerruti. The following lineup would dramatically reflect the avant artistry of L.A. design. In addition to Nony Tochterman for Petro Zillia, Michelle Mason, Rami Kashou, Pegah Anvarian, Monah Li, Sue Wong, Lords, MartinMartin, Corey Lynn Calter, Richard Tyler, Eduardo Lucero, Trina Turk, Christopher Enuke for Oligo Tissew, and Louis Verdad — all of whom made strong showings at M-B/Smashbox — and Cosa Nostra, Madley, and Society for Rational Dress, who cemented their ones-to-watch reputations at Gen Art, the list should include Antonio Aguilar, Magda Berliner, Catie et Marcs, Cornell Collins, Henry Duarte, Evelina Galli, Jared Gold, Marina Toybina and Ashton Hirota for Glaza, Grant Krajecki for Grey Ant, Kevan Hall, Alicia Lawhon, Brian Lichtenberg, LoyandFord, Marco Morante for MarcoMarco, Rozae Nichols, Jennifer Nicholson, Marlene Salcido for Prospect 44, Nathalie Saphier, Jeremy Scott, Jasmin Shokrian, Kime Buzzelli and Niki Livingston for Show Pony, Bao Tranchi, Tree, Cynthia Vincent, and Josh and He Yang.

At its most adventurous, fashion is inevitably a hit-or-miss proposition, but every one of these designers offers the thrill of possibility. And that’s all a good Fashion Week ever needs.

Left: Veteran designer Monah Li dramatically reinvented her line, sending out rich solid-colored pants, blouses and dresses, often topped with stoles (fur, faux and real, was all over the runway). Right: While the Blade Runner warrior princess was among the strongest looks at Michelle Mason’s Second Street tunnel presentation, it was her shoes — shown at M-B/Smashbox with her secondary line, Mason — that fully expressed her genius. Photo (Monah Li) by Jimmy McGrath

Left: Richard Tyler gave hope to women who want tasteful outfits with verve — Tyler was more for a debutante than a starlet, and it was strongest presentation of his secondary line yet.
Right: Gen Art’s “The New Garde” offered up one of the most creative productions of the week, with three live installations featuring challenging design and bright ideas: Society for Rational Dress’s Jetson-esque bondage outfits (pictured), Madley’s playful knitwear and Cosa Nostra’s punk-chic leather jackets. (Full disclosure: The Author was on the Nominating committee.) Photo by Odessy Barbu

Left: Christopher Enuke for Oligo Tissew established that, in the right hands, denim can be runway worthy, and he proved himself to be a wit with the knits as well, showing slacker-chic sweaters and dresses. Right: Of the numerous designers showing jersey, Pegah Anvarian was one of the few who knows how to cut the cloth to work with the body instead of making the body give the garment shape.
Photos by Randy Brooke/ (Lucero) and Steve Cohn/BEImages

Above left: Eduardo Lucero swooped and swirled, his usual extraordinary draping skills evident but in edgy shapes, signaling an exciting new direction. Above right: MartinMartin pushed aesthetic boundaries to the limit, creating beautifully bold statements for women with a strong sense of self. Right: No one evokes classic high glamour like Louis Verdad, but always with a fresh, inimitable flair and his own invigorating intelligence guiding him. Photos by Randy Brooke/ and (Verdad)

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly