Fashion week has the blues

L.A. takes a casual approach and conjures criticism

Los Angeles Fashion Week is the quintessential Hollywood starlet. It’s young, parties hard, desperately wants to be taken seriously–and may need to go to rehab.

“It’s too expensive and it’s like a club scene at Smashbox instead of a fashion show,” says Lisa Elliot, principal of em Prods., which handled shows for Richard Tyler and Eduardo Lucero in past years.

Mercedes-Benz sponsors LAFW’s fall collection shows, which kick off Sunday at Smashbox Studios in Culver City with a 37-designer lineup. However, local stars like Michelle Mason, Magda Berliner (now working with Christy Turlington Burns’ Nuala line), Petro Zillia and Pegah Anvarian are not among them.

“I’m done with L.A. when it comes to fashion. I want to go to New York, Paris or Milan,” says Anvarian, whose spring show drew Charlize Theron to the front row last October. “L.A. needs to be more selective about who gets to show.”

Among the decisions that Anvarian finds disturbing is Tuesday’s “denim night,” in which four consecutive shows feature jeans. For some fashionistas, a pair of low-riders coming down the runway is visually akin to a fever blister on a first date.

“Four years ago, I said that we’re not coming out to L.A. to do denim, but you can’t ignore the trend,” says Fern Mallis,VP of I.M.G, which produces fashion weeks for both Los Angeles and New York. “There’s enough to do denim day. Or denim week, even.”

Meaning, the denim industry is lucrative enough to fork out a minimum of $20,000 to send a collection down a catwalk.

However, the denim brigade hasn’t scared away talented designers like Kevan Hall, Louis Verdad, Sue Wong, Bradley Bayou, and Corey Lynn Calter.

“It’s great that the jeans are all showing on one night because that will be the big party night,” says Calter.

Others are more concerned with LAFW’s credibility.

“I am excited to show, but I am quite distressed about the calendar,” says local hero Verdad, whose fall 2005 LAFW show attracted Anna Wintour. “There are jean companies and names that nobody knows, like this girl from Project Runway.

“We work very hard,” he says, “and we need to be taken seriously.”