THE PARTY SHOPS HERE A HANDFUL OF L.A. FASHION RETAILERS SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THEIR STORES BY HOSTING WEEKLY CLUB NIGHTS.
It's half past midnight at the West Hollywood lounge Seven, and the place is bursting at the seams with young, beautiful, impeccably dressed garmentos.
What's a garmento? It's insider shorthand for a designer, sales representative or merchandiser at the center of L.A.'s vibrant and innovative fashion industry.
Showroom chatter about late shipping dates, new accounts and industry gossip can be heard above the clank of cocktail glasses and the thump of the DJ's dance mix.
It's a far cry from the halls of the Cooper Building in L.A.'s downtown fashion district, but it's the norm at Seven on Saturday nights, when Sunset Boulevard clothing boutique Kin hosts its weekly party.
Since June, Kin owners Darrel Adams and Alex Mouracade have filled a void in Saturday night (which Hollywood hipsters scoff at as being the worst night to go out) by throwing parties that target the industry in which they work. And they're not the only local store owners to do so.
In the city's competitive retail market, it takes more than a PR strategy and advertising to help boutiques stand apart from the rest. While in-store events remain a popular practice in building brand awareness, a handful of fashion retailers are going another route by hosting weekly club nights at local nightlife venues.
A rich Rolodex of well-connected customers, clothing reps and designers makes packing the clubs easy. E-mail, text messages and MySpace postings also help spread the word quickly.
"If we can do it at the stores and get so many people we know to come, why not take it to the clubs," says Arsen Salatinjants, 30.
By day, Salatinjants runs his two stores, the Melrose Avenue sneaker shop Kendo and the new fitted cap shop Hall of Fame on Fairfax Avenue. Every Friday night, he promotes the party Private at the Hollywood lounge Holly's along with another retailer, Doug Wu, from the Pasadena sneaker shop Greyone.
For Salatinjants, promoting is just for fun. "My main focus is the stores," he insists. "The parties are just something I do on the side."
He says he can't track if they boost sales significantly, but he's often used his night at Holly's as a means to entertain potential vendors or valued customers.
It's also been a place for networking among friends and colleagues in the streetwear industry.
Building a social network centered around the fashion business also was a goal for Adams and Mouracade, who worked together as party promoters and DJs prior to opening Kin in 2005.
More importantly, they say, the focus of the parties reflects the focus of the shop, which carries men's and women's clothing by high-end designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen as well as casual lines like Morphine Generation and Ella Moss.
"We wanted a place for people who work in the industry as reps, buyers, designers and publicists to network and have fun with like-minded people," says Mouracade, 30, a native of France. "It's also a way for up-and-coming designers to meet established designers."
Each week, they enlist a clothing line sold at Kin to co-sponsor the night, giving designers an opportunity for more exposure. So far, hip L.A.-based lines Cassette and Fremont as well as New York-based line Triple 5 Soul have sponsored a night.
"The parties Alex and I throw were driven by musical talent," explains Adams, 31, from Huntington Beach. "Now we have fashion-driven parties. We cater to the fashion industry with our parties."
"Without alienating anybody, though," interrupts Mouracade. "We want to bring everybody together. But they do have to look the part."
Garnering a similar-looking crowd as hotspots Teddy's and Hyde Lounge -- so far, minus the drunk C-list celebrities -- Kin's Saturday party has become Seven's most popular night.
"Our goal is to bring something unique and sophisticated to the scene, and Kin brings that," says Seven co-owner Noah Silverman. "It's more of a fashion industry crowd as opposed to Hollywood kids that just want to get drunk and party."
Hosting regular club nights can also be lucrative for online retailers who face just as much competition as non-virtual establishments.
Belle Nguyen, the proprietress behind Huntington Beach-based clothing and accessories Web site www.80spurple.com, promotes Manic Mondays, a biweekly summer party at the Hollywood club Tokio Bar.
For her, the parties help shape the overall image of her online store, which sells both streetwear and contemporary looks for men and women.
"Whether you're online or not, it's a way to get customers involved with your store that doesn't have to do with shopping or sales," says Nguyen, 23. "It's more of an image thing. It's for recognition."
The second Manic Mondays party this summer had a cheeky "Get Your Nails Did" theme and featured an airbrush artist creating works of art on partygoers' nails for free.
"We chose that theme because we have always had airbrush designs on our acrylic nails since high school," Nguyen says. "It's fun, bright, flashy and definitely makes a statement. It definitely fits the '80's fashions, and all girls love having their 'nails did!"'
Enid Portuguez, (818) 713-3902,
Here's where to go to check out the parties mentioned and other store-hosted shindigs (things usually get going at about 10 p.m. -- but call the stores for exact times or to get on the guest list):
7929 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, 90069
>Organized by: Kin, 8555 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 360-1444.
1651 Wilcox Ave.
>Organized by: Kendo, Hall of Fame and Greyone. Kendo is at 7218 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 934-9450. Hall of Fame is at 449 N. Fairfax Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 655-6002. Greyone is at 15 E. Holly St., Pasadena, (626) 578-1582.
1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
>Every first and third Monday of the summer months through August.
>Co-organized by: Belle Nguyen of the online fashion boutique www.80spurple.com.
1645 Wilcox Ave.
>Organized by: Greyone and Brooklyn Projects. Brooklyn Projects is at 7664 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 658-7182.
Dance Right (Thursdays)
336 S. Hill St.
Los Angeles, 90013
>Co-organized by: Barracuda, 7600-B Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 852-7179.
9 photos, box
(1 -- 4 -- cover -- color) clubbing with couture
Boutiques dress up their images - and clients - at fashionable parties
(5 -- color) KIN
Darrel Adams, left, and Alex Mouracade sponsor weekly parties for their clothing boutique at Seven in West Hollywood.
(6 -- color) HALL OF FAME
Arsen Salatinjants, shown at his Fairfax Avenue store, promotes the party Private every Friday night with retailer Doug Wu of Greyone.
JOHN LAZAR>STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
(7 -- color) 80sPURPLE
Belle Nguyen holds Manic Mondays at Hollywood's Tokio Bar to help shape the image of her online clothing and accessories store.
(8 -- 9 -- color) A recent 80sPurple party themed "Get Your Nails Did" featured an airbrush artist, above, who did partygoers' nails free of charge. At left, Tokio Bar is jammed for a Manic Mondays event.