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Los Angeles Fashion Week returns, riding the West Coast’s fashion moment

This article originally appeared on Vogue Business. To receive the Vogue Business newsletter, sign up here.

Los Angeles Fashion Week will return from October 6 to 9 with a new lineup in a bid to draw fashion brands and designers to the traditionally commercial-centric event.

The organizers are intent on “doing things differently” by focusing on four pillars — fashion, beauty, technology and sustainability — rather than a particular season, and opening up new modes of presentation beyond traditional runway shows, says LAFW president Ciarra Pardo.

While LA labels such as Gypsy Sport and Sami Miro Vintage are slated to show, the majority of brands at the event are non-LA-based. New York’s Anonlychild is on the lineup, as are international brands Demobaza and Chris Nick, whose dress featured on one of the inaugural Vogue Philippines covers. Fleur du Mal is celebrating its 10th anniversary; and Guess its 40th anniversary with previously unseen brand footage. Denim brands Levi’s and Revice Denim will also show.

While most participants did not appear elsewhere during fashion month, Anonlychild is on its second stop. After showing in New York, the brand will bring a tweaked version to the West Coast. Designer Maxwell Osborne was drawn to the newness of LAFW. Having frequented LA recently for deadstock sourcing, the opportunity to show in the city — and tell the story of the brand’s materials — felt natural, he says.

It also marked an opportunity to reject the so-called rules: “Why do we have to be a New York mainstay?” he asks, noting that, following LAFW, Anonlychild might not show in February. “We’re not going to be hung up on rules and seasons.” Or locations. Showing the collection in LA as well, says Osborne, is his way of waving the flag and saying, “Why not?”

One returning LA-based brand to watch is Gypsy Sport. In 2019, designer Rio Uribe came home to LA after a 15-year stint in New York, and showed at LAFW last year. On his return to the event (rather than doing things on his own time as he did in place of past NYFWs) he says that LAFW “feels fresh and new, so we decided to jump onboard”.

Part of this newness is the immersive technology element of LAFW. Pardo says there will be nearly 200 projectors at the Lighthouse venue, which many exhibiting designers will use to add digital or immersive elements to their shows. For instance, Gypsy Sport will use this technology to celebrate Latinidad and Chicano culture by immersing the audience in what Uribe calls Gypsy Sport’s “universe”.

The Lighthouse ArtSpace previously housed immersive Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo exhibitions. Photo: LAFW

LAFW has been undergoing a rebranding following its acquisition by N4XT Experiences in January of this year. This October marks the second LAFW since the acquisition from Arthur Chipman, who trademarked the name in 2015 (the first under new ownership was in April). Historically, the week has struggled to garner attention — and attendance — comparable to the major fashion weeks. Smashbox Cosmetics and IMG attempted to remedy this (with limited success) for five years until dissolving the partnership in 2008. Following this, the week lacked a clear organizer, and was notoriously disorganized with multiple organizations hosting different events. This year, N4XT Experiences is the clear showrunner, and sponsors include Mercedes Benz, Bolt and Delta Airlines.

Pardo is set on changing the LAFW narrative, citing learnings from her previous role as Fenty’s chief creative officer as key to informing her approach. It helps that eyes have been on LA as a fashion destination for global luxury brands. In May, Dior showcased its menswear collection at Venice Beach in collaboration with Erl (an LA brand notably absent from the LAFW lineup). That same month, Louis Vuitton took to La Jolla for its crruise 2023 show. Gucci arguably started the trend with its November 2021 “Love Parade” on Hollywood Boulevard. On October 13, Ralph Lauren will show outside of LA after foregoing New York.

The city is a clean slate, Pardo explains on the draw of LA, in that it isn’t limited by tradition as key fashion month destinations might be. Osborne touches on the nascency — and associated potential — of LA’s fashion territory: “There is an energy in LA that was always looked over by the serious fashion calendar.”

ERL isn’t the only LA-native brand whose absence is notable. While some LA labels are present, many of the city’s buzzy streetwear staples are not. Big names such as Fear of God and Rhude, the latter of which recently showcased its Spring/Summer 2023 collection in Paris on 22 June, are missing from the October lineup.

“There is an energy in LA that was always looked over by the serious fashion calendar.”

Though Rhude opted for PFW, Pardo attributes this absence to many of these brands’ wider resistance to fashion week runway shows. Pardo had spoken to Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo (a dear friend, she says) about participating. But, at this stage, a lot of LA streetwear brands aren’t interested in this forum.

Going forward, Pardo expects more LA mainstays to appear on LAFW lineups. “My hope is that this will become a destination for a lot of those brands who have sat out from the traditional way of doing things.”

Despite coming off the heels of a busy fashion month, enlisting buyers hasn’t been an issue, Pardo says. “It’s piqued interest,” she explains. “People are curious as to what we’re going to do.” Pardo looks specifically towards Asia: “Where New York is the gateway to Europe, Los Angeles is the gateway to Asia.” Many buyers and press from Asian countries are invited and will be in attendance, she says. Plus, the event is easily accessible for LA retailers; Osborne cites this streamlined access to stores such as H Lorenzo as another plus.

This LAFW is all about experimentation. “We’re keeping it small this year,” Pardo says, noting that April is shaping up to be bigger than she’d expected. Osborne concurs. “I think it’s gonna be a good beginning,” he says.

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