Friday, April 04, 2008

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The City of Angels has carved out a niche for itself as a host for casual brands like American Apparel and as a manufacturer of quick-turnaround "fast fashion" and small orders for emerging designers.

Fashion is the city's largest manufacturing industry, and employs more people here than in New York, they note.

"We are the merchandisers of the world at this point -- not Paris, not the runways, and certainly not New York," said Ilse Metchek, Executive Director of the California Fashion Association.

"What the people are wearing on the street -- if leggings are in or out -- is determined by California."


Hundreds of makers of jeans, swimwear, surfwear or contemporary lines are here, drawn by a big talent pool from local design schools, cheap space, zippers, buttons and trim at the ready and relative proximity to Asian markets.

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His modern showroom and atelier reflect the upscale aspirations of this city's apparel industry, which is yearning to raise its profile -- even though it already dictates what much of the world wears every day.

"It would be nice for people to be more open-minded about designers in L.A.," said Rodriguez, whose creations are sold in famous retailers like Neiman Marcus and Harrods. "They're surprised the collection is from L.A."

Los Angeles fashion insiders are tired of playing second fiddle to New York, which they describe as slow-moving and staid. Today's fashion, they say, thrives in this city of palm-lined streets whose lifestyle is coveted the world over.

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The Triumph Luxurious Diamond Thong had 518 brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling 30 carats, studded into the front of a black lace thong in a floral pattern. The skimpy underwear that left little to the imagination also had 27 white gold tassels hanging off it.

Danielle Luminita, a brunette model from Romania, was carried down the runway on the shoulders of two male models wearing only the diamond thong.

"It is very comfortable, it's not heavy or scratchy or anything," Luminita told Reuters backstage.

A spokeswoman for Triumph International, the lingerie company that commissioned the thong, said that the thong would be dry cleaned before going on display.

"It's a signature piece, obviously we aren't going to sell it," she said.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee)

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Almost all shows were held in the same hall, few Russian and no foreign celebrities made an appearance.

Two Russian designers who have gained popularity in the West were markedly absent from the shows.

Girlfriend of billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, Daria Zhukova, did not come to the week, although she was invited. Her designs, under the label Kova and T, have recently been spotted on Hollywood stars.

Denis Simachev, who creates clean-cut sailor outfits and has his head office in Luxembourg, also declined his invite, his spokesman Vadim Chernyshev said.

"The best way to sell a collection is in Milan. Good clothes should be known on a quality stage," said Chernyshev. Simachev was the first Russian designer to debut on the coveted Milan catwalk seven years ago.

Moscow Fashion Week, though it attracts little international interest, had around 120,000 attendees this year.

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"We were isolated from the world (during Soviet times)," said Tatyana Mikhalkova, the wife of Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov and president of Russian Silhouette, a charity she set up to give funding to young Russian designers.

"People now like to dress from another time, like the time of (Empress) Catherine the Great," said Mikhalkova, who counts future first lady and public Russian fashion supporter Svetlana Medvedeva in her close circle of friends.


Russian fashion, like other facets of the country's art, is gaining popularity and spreading in interest as Russia undergoes its longest economic boom in more than a generation, fuelled by high oil prices.

But Moscow Fashion Week, which was set up 15 years ago to compete with other fashion footholds Milan and Paris, fell short of the international glamour such cities receive.

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"We are a rich country, and that's why we have rich fashion," Luzhkov told Reuters TV after giving Yudashkin a large bouquet of flowers.

Other designers went beyond tsarist fashion to evoke the feeling of pre-Bolshevik Russia.

Deep blue flowers on black backgrounds similar to traditional Russian lacquered boxes dominated at Slava Zaitsev's show, a 69-year old designer who used to dress the Soviet elite.

Male models had their faces covered by flowing fox stretching from large Russian winter hats and wore embroidered gold overcoats with green fur collars.

"We're scared of taking our fashion abroad, that it will be unpleasant, but we're a huge country with a long history of beauty," Zaitsev told Reuters after the show, which also showed headscarved women and men with trousers tucked into boots, conjuring up the look of Cossacks, or tsarist cavalrymen.

Ballerinas, an idyllic Russian winter setting and an ode to French queen Marie-Antoinette also featured at the week.

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Old world luxury reminiscent of the tsars opened the city's first fashion week of the year, held in Gostiny Dvor, a revamped 19th century exhibit hall near the Kremlin.

Pale-faced models displayed flowing cream and black dresses from the turn of the century under high-collared fur coats to an audience of hundreds of people, which included few members of the international press or foreign buyers.

"Russian fashion has been given back to us, it's arrived," said designer Valentin Yudashkin after his show.

Moscow mayor of 15 years Yuri Luzhkov took his place on the first row and enthusiastically applauded the celebrated designer, who has shops in western Europe and was recently commissioned by generals to dress the Russian military.