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L.A. Designers Gaining Clout in Movie Hub

By Alexandria Sage

The capital of the movie industry may finally be gaining the respect it craves from fashion watchers this week, as it rolls out its home-grown talent in an eclectic series of runway shows.

With 35 shows over a week-long period, Los Angeles Fashion Week aims to celebrate local designers -- from the innovative tailoring of Louis Verdad to red carpet favorite Kevan Hall to jeans makers Rock & Republic and Antik Denim -- with various others from New York and the U.K. in the mix for good measure.

"I support (L.A. Fashion Week) because there are some really great designers," Courtney Love, wearing a textured beige suit at the Agent Provocateur show, told Reuters. "I'm a local girl," she explained.

Behind the glitz, the paparazzi, the hangers-on and the models carrying Chihuahuas is a push to expose designers in this city -- already the second-largest U.S. apparel market behind New York -- to a broader audience and increase sales.

"It's all about getting stuff on the backs of customers," said Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion, which produces the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios. "That's what every fashion week is about."

Celebrities Looking at Lingerie

Cher, singer Love, a platinum blond Christina Aguilera and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' frontman Anthony Kiedis took in the Los Angeles runway debut of London-based lingerie line Agent Provocateur on Monday night.

The collection opened on a wedding theme, as a veiled model in an ivory brassiere and garter tossed her bouquet at her similarly attired bridesmaids in shades of pink, blue and peach. Later, leggy models in thongs and tasseled pasties strutted the catwalk with whips in hand.

At Morphine Generation also on Monday, skinny black denim jeans and coats and capes with distressed seams and hems took the stage, while Kara Saun, a runner-up from the reality television series "Project Runway," showcased a collection of satin-backed crepe gowns with turn-of-the-century high collars and puffed sleeves, cinched with Japanese obi belts.

In Los Angeles, clothing that is decidedly more casual than usually seen on the European or New York runways is often overshadowed by the stars being photographed in the front rows.

"The celebrity thing is a major component," said Mallis, adding that designers only stand to benefit from their presence. "The celebrity partnership in fashion has been very important for many years."

Fittingly, socialite Paris Hilton with sister Nicky, "Friends" star Matthew Perry and Carmen Electra were in the front row at Louis Verdad's predominantly black and white collection Sunday night, which featured houndstooth coats accented with patent leather backs, wide leg trousers and ruffled sweaters.

Upcoming shows include a collection by Jennifer Nicholson, daughter of Jack Nicholson; Bradley Bayou, who has dressed Queen Latifah; and the first runway collection by mall-based apparel retailer Bebe.

Organizers say that L.A. Fashion Week will continue to gain clout as more people learn about Los Angeles' place at the juncture of fashion, design and celebrity culture.

"L.A. is a major center of creativity," said Jennifer Uner, who produced Los Angeles' inaugural fashion awards last fall. "Why not see it in fashion?"

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