Revenge of the Nerd

A Garment District behemoth gets made over by a fashion novice

At a downtown blowout on a patio between concrete towers, a DJ played Justin Timberlake and Kanye West for peple in look-at-me out?ts. Guests watched a catwalk show and ?ngered arty accessories in a pop-up store. The only unusual aspect of the late May edition of “Dress Right,” the monthly fashion-oriented party, was the location: not a loft but the California Market Center, home to 1,000 wholesale show-rooms, many selling the kind of mainstream clothing this crowd abhors. Luring the city’s coolest regular style soirée to the wonkiest address in the Garment District was the ?rst step in the CMC’s attempt to impress fashion insiders. It would be impossible for every item of clothing in a 3-million-square-foot complex of buildings to be chic. But neither is the CMC a clearinghouse for shmattes. “What is seen as a weakness could be turned into a plus,” says Jaime Lee, president of the CMC. “With size comes venue.” The building, which also encompasses showrooms for gifts, home accessories , and textiles, is owned by Jamison Services, one of the largest commercial real estate out?ts in Los Angeles. Last year Jamison owner Dr. David Lee appointed Jaime, his 23-year-old daughter, as the CMC’s top executive. She was still attending USC law school when she started the job. Asked about her professional experience in fashion, she jokes, “I have a background in shopping.” She wants to improve the building’s standing by booking more tenants that carry contemporary clothing, the sort of pieces sold in West 3rd Street boutiques. Going a step further, the CMC will open its own showroom this fall—a first. Called the Gallery, it will allow emerging designers to rent a single rack at a rate far lower than that for full showroom representation. If the new e?orts to burnish its reputation are successful, the only problem the CMC will have is gate-crashers at its after hours shindigs.

Illustration courtesy Auriela D’Amore