While Los Angeles has remained the epicenter of global celebrity since the early 20th century, it has struggled to become a relevant fashion capital like its sister city, New York. Los Angeles Fashion Week, in particular, has been fraught with complaints of disorganization, chaos, too many competing shows, and a disinterested fashion media. However, recent events have begun to shape the idea that Los Angeles and surrounding areas are poised to become the next big thing in fashion as westward expansion by brands like Rebecca Minkoff, Rachel Comey, and Tommy Hilfiger ratchet up new “cool” points for the struggling fashion scene.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Fashion Week has been without a lead event since a partnership between Smashbox Studios and events producer IMG ended in 2008.” This lack of cohesion is due to the fact that multiple entities like Los Angeles Fashion Week, Art Hearts Fashion Week, Style Fashion Week, and Fashion Week Los Angeles host competing events over a two- to four-week period. However, only Los Angeles Fashion Week has the backing of the Los Angeles Fashion Council (LAFC), but despite many promises made by LAFC, a streamlined calendar has yet to be made a reality.
Despite the lack of a unified front, Los Angeles has remained an alluring location for designers like Raf Simons, Tom Ford, Nicolas Ghesquière (who staged his Louis Vuitton Cruise 2016 collection at the sun-soaked Bob and Dolores Hope estate), and Burberry, which took London to Los Angeles when it hosted an encore of its Fall/Winter 2015 collection at the Griffith Observatory. Additionally, Hedi Slimane shocked the entire fashion industry back in 2012 when he relocated Saint Laurent’s headquarters from Paris to Los Angeles, transforming the brand’s clientele from ladies-who-lunch to rock ‘n’ roll goddesses.
All of these events can be seen as a precursor to Los Angeles’ fashion takeover in 2017. Now that Maria Grazia Chiuri has taken over Dior, she is intent on honoring Simons’ promise that he would host a Dior show in Los Angeles, with rumors that her first Cruise collection for the brand will be held in the City of Angels. On February 4th, Rebecca Minkoff will host an all-day consumer event at The Grove in Los Angeles in place of a traditional runway show and, on February 8th, Tommy Hilfiger will show at Venice Beach as part of the brand’s continued collaboration with “It” girl and model-of-the-moment Gigi Hadid.
One of the primary reasons that brands are choosing to show in Los Angeles for the forthcoming season is the buying power of its 330,000 high-net-worth individuals, worth a combined total of $1.2 trillion according to Business of Fashion. As the industry trends more toward consumer-facing runway events, rather than industry-facing events, Los Angeles is poised to meet “See Now, Buy Now” needs.
The city is also at the center of a cultural boom, which is one reason that Christopher Bailey decided to host Burberry’s “London in Los Angeles” show in the city, saying, “There is an amazing and inspiring mix of people from the worlds of film, technology, music, architecture, food, and culture… and now fashion, all doing such interesting things there.” Additionally, as designers eye the West Coast for event staging and retail expansion, New Yorkers are leaving the concrete island for sunnier climes in droves. According to an article in The New York Times, “Los Angeles is enjoying a renaissance with a burgeoning art, fashion, and food scene that has become irresistible to the culturally attuned.”
Despite the city’s cultural boom, high-net-worth individuals, celebrity worship, and emerging high-fashion scene, there is one major drawback that could prevent Los Angeles from becoming the next big thing in fashion. As it happens, a matter of scheduling could affect the preeminence of Los Angeles on the Fashion Week calendar as it currently falls at the end of the buying cycle, so buyers’ budgets are depleted by the time it rolls around.
Of course, as Los Angeles Fashion Week-oriented events lack cohesion or a single organizing body, the individually staged, consumer-facing brand events will need to adjust both their expectations and their calendars. Rebecca Minkoff, Tommy Hilfiger, and Rachel Comey are showing in Los Angeles during New York Fashion Week in place of participating on the NYFW calendar. Read: They aren’t showing during Los Angeles Fashion Week, and that’s probably a smart move. While Los Angeles presents itself annually in the Fashion Week conversation as a potential contender, it seems likely that it will only be a viable location for stand-alone events. Until Los Angeles has a coherent vision for its Fashion Week future, it will remain only an occasional fashion destination.