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Los Angeles the new emerging designer fashion hub?

By Kristopher Fraser


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Image: LA Fashion Week

Los Angeles Fashion Week has come and gone. The three-day spectacle of shows provided a platform for emerging designers. Stylists, like Perry Jones, debuted collections fit for their celebrity clientele. Eco-conscious designers, like Andrew James, reminded us that we need to work on saving the planet.

While the significance of Los Angeles Fashion Week has graduated from infancy to its toddler years, it puts a spotlight on Los Angeles as something bigger the fashion industry should be paying attention to: Los Angeles might be the new hub for emerging fashion designers.

This isn’t to pit Los Angeles against New York, where much emerging talent finds its roots. However, Los Angeles is certainly producing its share of West Coast-grown designers who are becoming recognizable forces. The popularity of luxury streetwear brands like Amiri, Fear of God, and Baja East, which have found strong audiences on both the East and West Coast, proves that Los Angeles's fashion scene isn't to be underestimated.

One of the primary motivators behind this is L.A.’s celebrity stylist and celebrity personal shopper scene. The relationship between the fashion industry and Hollywood is very strong in the United States. Celebrities are big drivers of fashion products. Getting your clothes on one major celebrity can completely make a designer’s career. Monique Lhuillier’s career from bridal designer to ready-to-wear designer completely transformed when celebrities like Blake Lively and Reese Witherspoon began wearing her dresses. It was ultimately the support of FLOTUS Michelle Obama that pushed Lhuillier’s career over the edge, but it all began with the Hollywood actress guild.

One way that Los Angeles Fashion Week is also working on standing out is by focusing on sustainability. Andrew James wasn’t the only designer on the roster taking a sustainable approach to design. MM Milano, designed by Chona Bacaoco, combines sustainable attributes from fashion practices in Italy, Germany, and the Philippines. The Filipino designer takes organic materials and uses all the various techniques she’s learned to create designs inspired by nature.

Los Angeles is also not only home to sustainable-focused designers, but is also the location for Vegan Fashion Week. The event has been a major platform for showing sustainable alternatives to animal leather, with leather designers made from everything ranging from pineapple leaves to recycled plastic. As the fashion industry continues its conversations around sustainability and continues facing criticism for arguably being the largest industry polluter after oil and gas, eco-fashion is quite literally the future, or there won’t be a planet.

Designers looking to start as eco-conscious and sustainable from inception would do well building their brands in Los Angeles. In a promising sign for many young fashion designers and more established brands trying to expand, L.A.’s retail sector is also rebounding.

According to KTLA, during the holiday season shows shoppers were out in droves. The National Federation, America’s largest retail trade group, released figures showing sales surged 14.1 percent from November and December 2020 to the same months in 2021. This surpassed the projected growth of between 8.5 percent to 10.5 percent, and more than tripled the average gain over the past five years of 4.4 percent.

Although spending did teeter off in December, it was a sign that L.A.’s retail scene was making a comeback. Some of that level off was due to the surging Omicron COVID-19 variant, and with COVID-19 numbers more stable, economic recovery is expected to continue.

The demand for high-quality retail space in Los Angeles is also increasing. Los Angeles is also known for retail pop-ups, which are a great way for emerging brands to test the waters of a market and see how customers respond to their products.

While Los Angeles is also known as a hub for tourism, their government’s push to increase tourism also stands for businesses, like fashion and retail, to reap the benefits. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti recently signed an executive order to create a tourism cabinet to propel L.A.’s position as a global tourism destination.

Although Los Angeles is far off from becoming a major fashion capital the likes of New York, London, Milan, or Paris, it’s solidifying its position in the fashion zeitgeist. Between the city being home to Hollywood as a driving fashion force, a sustainably-minded fashion consumer, and a growing economy, emerging designers can find a home with a fighting chance in Los Angeles. The fashion industry can expect more West Coast homegrown brands coming out of the city soon.

Image: LA Fashion Week
Image: LA Fashion Week
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Los Angeles Fashion Week