Origins of Los Angeles Fashion Week

Los Angeles Fashion Week 2008, which kicked off on Sunday, October 12 and wrapped up Thursday, October 16, opened with the announcement that IMG will no longer be backing it (more here). This turn of events seemed like a good time to take a look at the origins of Fashion Week in Los Angeles, which as the Los Angeles Times points out, “has never really taken off, partly because organizers have tried to make it fit the template of other fashion weeks around the globe, where success is a front row stocked with retail buyers and New York magazine editors.”

The Associated Apparel Manufacturers of Los Angeles had been exhibiting shows of ready-to-wear clothing at the Biltmore Bowl in Los Angeles since the early 1920s, but it was not until 1935/1936 that the name “Los Angeles Fashion Week” came into regular use (and received regular press coverage). LA Fashion week then became established as a bi-annual event, where buyers from across the country came to see what California, and specifically, Hollywood had to offer.

03 Feb 1935, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Smart Los Angeles made clothes were on display at the Los Angeles Biltmore, in an advance showing of spring creations.  A feature of the show was the appearance of RKO-Radio players in valuable gowns that were worn in a recent production.  Photo shows, left to right:  Bernard Newman, RKO designer, Irene Dunne, film star and Randolph Scott, leading man, as they viewed the show. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

“Bernard Newman and Colleagues Viewing a Fashion Show” 03 Feb 1935, Los Angeles, California, USA. Original Caption: Smart Los Angeles made clothes were on display at the Los Angeles Biltmore, in an advance showing of spring creations.  A feature of the show was the appearance of RKO-Radio players in valuable gowns that were worn in a recent production.  Photo shows, left to right:  Bernard Newman, RKO designer, Irene Dunne, film star and Randolph Scott, leading man, as they viewed the show. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

A 1936 article in the Los Angeles Times explained that one of the tactics used to get buyers out to California involved a unique marketing idea.

“’Miss Fashion of Hollywood’ in the person of June Horne, leaves Los Angeles today via American Airlines to summon retail merchants and buyers throughout the country to attend Los Angeles Fashion Week, January 11 to 13. She will carry the largest invitation ever sent across the country by air, which she will personally present to the country’s foremost merchants. Miss Horne will take a wardrobe of advanced spring and summer styles, created by the Associated Apparel Manufacturers of Los Angeles, which is sponsoring Fashion Week. These styles will be presented in twelve key cities throughout the country in the course of her five-day flying tour, to give merchants an advance glimpse of the elaborate style display awaiting them in Los Angeles. Metropolitan centers which Miss Horne will visiti in the course of her flying fashion preview include Dallas, Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Worth and El Paso. She will return here Friday.” (December 14, 1936, Los Angeles Times, pg. A10.)

How I wish I had a photo to show you of Miss Fashion of Hollywood! In January of 1937, LA Fashion Week had a special guest speaker, Twentieth Century-Fox Studios Costume Designer, Royer. According to the Los Angeles Times:

“Royer, the costume designer for a major motion-picture studio, also addressed the gathering. . . . Comparing Hollywood with Paris, she has, he said, the greatest research libraries in the world to aid her, and the screen to promote her wares. But Paris designers have freer scope, they don’t have to please the director, the producer, the supervisior, the star, and the camera. Nevertheless, screen styles are becoming more practical. . . . But the studios don’t sell clothes. The waste has been unfortunate. But now that the merchandising is being taken care of, a semi-annual style show of the type taking place at the Biltmore Bowl this evening should prove disturbing competition for Paris.” (Whitaker, Alma. Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1937, pg. A2)

And finally, at the end of the 1937 fashion week a “motion-picture style pageant at the Biltmore Bowl” was arranged. The Los Angeles TImes explained:

“Fashion designers from all the major film studios will exhibit their newest garments for forthcoming motion pictures at tonights show, to be given under the direction of Sally Martin, fashion editor of Fawcett Publications.” (Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1937, pg. A2)

What will happen to Los Angeles Fashion Week now is anybody’s guess – but given the current state of the economy, and the cancellation/discontiuation of San Francisco’s Fashion Week, it doesn’t look that good. It’s possible that Gen Art Fresh Faces nation-wide fashion shows will take up the slack. Really, its anybody’s guess.

Until Next Time,

Heather

www.fashionhistorian.net

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