Innovative menswear was in the spotlight recently when the California Mart staged its Seventh Annual Marty Awards.

The awards ceremonies, honoring outstanding West Coast designers, were held on the opening night of the Men's Fashion Association spring and summer press preview in Los Angeles. The mart, 110 E. Ninth St., was all aglitter for the occasion. One room, where an elegant dinner party was held, had been especially decorated with orange trees, birds of paradise and twinkling lights. (They called it Club 110, an obvious take-off on the mart's address.)Invitations to the evening's activities specified "California Creative Black Tie." Many guests - including designers, apparel industry representatives and members of the press from throughout the country - turned up in hip and sometimes off-beat outfits.

Master of ceremonies for the evening was actor Robert Urich.

Ron Arden, menswear director at the mart, also was on hand to help present awards and to introduce capsule collections from each of the nominees.

This year for the first time, Rising Stars (designers and companies in the menswear business for two years or less) were honored.

According to Arden, the Marty Awards have come a long way since their inception in 1983.

"We started the program to focus attention on West Coast menswear designers," he said. "There's remarkable talent here . . . really creative and interesting things are going on in this part of the country. We wanted to make people aware of it."

Nominated for the 1989 Marty: George Machado for Zylos; James Cavaricci for Cavaricci; Glenn Williams for Glenn Williams Men; Emil Rutenberg for Emil Rutenberg; Sandra Serebreni for ETC and Hoopla; Sandra Mills and David Timsit for Shang-Hai and Nancy Finnerty for Re-Union.

Rising Star nominees were: Bijal Shah and Sarah Gulick for Woodhouse Menswear; Dick Chen for CA VA Collection; Joe Dahun; Henry Duarte for Sqwear; Richard Tyler for Richard Tyler.

The nominees were selected by a group of menswear experts, including members of the press and buying office executives. Then ballots were sent to 1,200 retailers, editors and fashion directors across the country and from these nationwide votes the winners were chosen.

Winning the Marty this time around was Jim Cavaricci.

Cavaricci entered the fashion world in the early '70s as a retailer, owning and operating three clothing boutiques in the Pittsburgh area. Frequent buying trips to New York helped him to fall in love with the apparel industry even further and influenced his decisiion to become a manufacturer.

In 1976, Cavaricci closed his stores and moved his family to Los Angeles. His first company was T. Cooper - denim designs for men and women. Then came Zoom, made up of contemporary sportswear designs. In 1984, Zoom became Z. Cavaricci and the company now boasts sales of over $40 million.

Jim Cavaricci works with his wife and a design staff of three to keep his collections creative and forward-thinking. The clothes have a snappy and distinctive look (some of the slacks in the collection are asymmetrical and front-pleated). He likes the easy look of such fabrics as rayon twill.

Cavaricci hopes to expand the sportswear into a full wardrobing concept for men and women in the near future. He's also spending a great deal of time these days perfecting a knit and sweater line.

Winner of the Rising Star Award, Dick Chen for CA VA, has been in business since 1986. He and his partner, Tom Herman, started the company to fill a void in the menswear market. They felt the male apparel industry was lacking in affordable, fashion-forward clothing.

Chen, the chief designer, was born in Taiwan. He has had 14 years of experience in the fashion field and has virtually done it all - cutting, sample making, sewing and managing a factory.

The CA VA customer, according to Herman, is in his mid-20s and up. He's the kind of man who is bored with traditional male apparel and wants to dress uniquely. He wants to stand out - but, at the same time, he doesn't want clothes that are hard to wear. The CA VA customer wants comfort.

So, it's comfortable stuff the company aims to offer: cotton twill outfits; all cotton T-shirts; silk sateen; cashmere and wool outerwear; baggy denim jeans.

Marty Award winners Dick Chen and Jim Cavaricci are typical of the creative, ambitious designers who have chosen to locate in California and advance their design concepts there.

"We're getting more and more menswear designers out here," emphasized Ron Arden of the California Mart. "I think they appreciate the way the community encourages young talent and new ideas."

California, in his opinion, has a great deal to offer - even though the heart of the American garment industry's New York City. And one of the most significant reasons to locate in L.A., he said, will be the new California Mart Menswear Building.

Ground will be broken in May.