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fashion: preview

The final swatch The final swatch

Before we look at the latest autumn–winter 2007 collections, Elyse Glickman, Karen Loftus and Sandi Margolis examine what’s in season right now from their earlier attendance at Los Angeles Fashion Week


LAST OCTOBER, it seemed as if the Los Angeles fashion scene got a job at Price Waterhouse and was compelled to conform to the company's strict dress code.
   Metaphors aside, in the name of looking and feeling more professional, Mercedes-Benz Los Angeles Fashion Week Fashion Week traded in its inherent individuality and fun (including many of the showcases and parties) for something resembling order and establishment. Although craziness was still present in the form of a random group of middle-tier film and television celebs (some exceptions being the fabulous Angela Bassett, Lisa Edelstein of House, Diana Ross and Robert Verdi; everybody else who mattered, like the Hilton sisters, Cameron Diaz and Patrick ‘Dr McDreamy’ Dempsey, showed up at William Rast's über-exclusive show), stylists seeking their own spotlight and a floor show of attendees that would make Ab Fab's Pats and Eddy look quite demure in comparison, the spark of the old days (where we madly dashed back and forth between loft instalments, Sixth on Seventh shows at the Downtown Standard Hotel and Smashbox Studios) was seeming all but extinguished.
   That being said, there were some bright spots during the week that signified a full-blown return to dressing up, whether or not you had anywhere to go. And there were at least a handful of places to go, including a few imaginative off-site shows and a pleasant showcase staged at the L'Ermitage's rooftop courtesy of Tracy Paul and her staff.
   While sophistication abounds in New York and Europe, several Los Angeles designers are trying to jump on that same, more runway-to-real life bandwagon with varying levels of success.
   Pastel shades are a little less candy-like and a little more down to earth. The turquoises, corals and bright greens were featured in a lot more moderation, and more frequently as solid, striking hues rather than dizzying designs or colour blocks. While black continued its winning streak as the “new black”, ivory and silver grey were neck-and-neck for the title of “the new white”, though white saw a bit of exposure. And while we are on the subject of new, lace is turning out to be the “new embroidery”, though some savvy stitching (but in much smaller doses) are finding their way into some collections, like Sue Wong.
   Gen Art's unofficial start to the party, though not as press-friendly or party-like as it had been in past seasons, did show a few signs of maturity. Exquisite sculptural shoes from Marcello Toshi Creazioni were showcased in an artistic setting with the talons mounted like fresh fruit just waiting to be plucked. Making them all the more ripe were their wearable, sexy colours and walk-worthy heels bringing the ’40s’ silhouette into the 21st century. LD Tuttle also put their earthier shoe-wears on display: think of them as Birkenstocks graduating from charm school and dumping their hippie devotees for the ladies who lunch crowd.
   The runway show was more misses than hits. Men's like Anzevino & Florence were evoking Mystery Science Theater 3000 responses from the back rows, Fremont's line was a little unfocused (souped-up Abercrombie gear for the guys and baby dresses for the girls. Nobody over 30, please) and Katy Rodriguez was stuck in an ’80s bubble (specifically, those skirts from 1986. A little of that trend indeed does go a long way).
   However, when there was something good, it was great. Crispin & Basilio and Trasteverine offered up feminine, classic and elegantly tailored looks perfect for blue-jean girls ready to grow up to sophisticated classics without losing their youthful edge. The lines were feminine without being frilly.
   The one admirable thing about this very spare, stripped-down edition of Mercedes-Benz Los Angeles Fashion Week is that the planners and powers-that-be did not overdose on designer jeans. When the premium denims did rear their pretty blue heads, there was some artistry put into the shows (as opposed to the Daisy Dukes-and-boob displays of previous seasons). Evisu (right), using a Tokyo theme, put their spring collection on display as streetwear the way savvy Japanese youth would wear them. Although the ultra-skinny legs and tiny tops will clearly fit a limited number of real-life bodies, kudos need to go out to the producers for taking that extra step to show people how versatile denim can be. Life & Death, the new line from the creators of Antik Denim, pushed the boundaries of cotton with their edgy and earthy separates.
   Sue Wong's show, as usual, delighted fans and fashionistas with a lighter but no less satisfying spread of wearable, flattering cocktail dresses and gowns. Spring 2007 was a departure for her, as several of her themed sub-collections were better suited for afternoon weddings and cocktail hours than for black ties and charity galas. For dresses in the very sweet ‘Country Cousins’ group, floral embroidery suggestive of hand-sewn hankerchiefs replaced her usual beading, while the ‘Fiesta’ group brought the vibrant look of Mexican tiered skirts and peasant blouses uptown. The ’60s-inspired ‘Chelsea’ dresses represented the show's most exotic venture with over-the-top design and colour that made it appear is if she were channeling Roberto Cavalli and Versace. The Sue Wong most people know and love made a brief appearance in the ‘Diamonds & Platinum’ section, although the beading and sparkle was applied with a little more restraint. While her show was less theatrical, ultimately, what she had to offer were fresh new ways to appreciate her signature style, and for more occasions.
   Meghan, meanwhile, dropped ‘Fabulous’ from her moniker. Ironically, the collection was one of her most fabulous to date. Flowing silhouettes, sexy (but not too overdone) embellishments and gorgeous soft-yet-vibrant colours replaced the more aggressively trendy affects of her previous shows. Although the ‘No-Tel Motel’ theme and saucy bellmen were entertainingly provocative, the dresses and tunics serve up a very subtle form of va-va-va-voom sex appeal: sheer and floaty, but still leaving something to the imagination.
   Not nearly as successful was Kushcush (right), which is at once stuck in the 1980s’ groove (with the overly cutesy puff sleeves, tiers and motifs easily traceable to 1981, the no-man's land of style falling between disco and new wave) and the notion that LA is all about youthful style. In fact, this quirky collection pushed the "youthful" idea too far, especially when many of us realized we wore those exact same garments in middle school, right down to the heart and rainbow necklaces. Scarier still, the same size garments were fitted to adult (though thin) figures. After a promising début a few years ago, Jennifer Nicholson also erred in the direction of high-concept 1980s’ period costume with a brief, wacky display of baby doll dresses suggestive of Betsey Johnson. However, even Betsey Johnson had to—and did—grow up, as her looks for the most part matured with her audience.
   Balans and Thrive, were also very concept-y presentations of clothes somewhat limited in scope. Balans’ models were made-up and assembled in a very 1979, Studio 54 kind of way, yet very deconstructed—as if they were walking out of the famed disco at 6 A.M. or got into a catfight with Steve Rubell for not letting them in. A muted palate of shades was offset by deliberately wrinkled and slightly frayed pieces tailored for lithe frames. The more successful Thrive, meanwhile, focused on all the different ways filmy and opaque fabrics could be layered, some to a very attractive effect. However, the cuts call for mostly lithe frames to carry off the line's postmodern architectural flair.
   Louis Verdad also took chances, but many of his risks paid off. Like Wong, he moved away from his all-out extravaganza of special-occasion dresses and suits and into new territory with clean, edgy and piecey separates and dresses suited for daytime. There were clear hits of ’70s’ and ’80s’ sensibility, along with kitschy Vidal Sassoon-style mid-’60s’ hair and a touch of Courrèges and Pierre Cardin, yet much of it did work. Corey Lynn Calter made clever use of lace, crochet and layering fabrics, infusing visual and tactile attitude into her dresses, trousers and jackets for a look that is at once creative but "wearable" for a variety of body types.


continued overleaf

Dressed to Kilt event




Sue Wong




Jennifer Nicholson




Corey Lynn Calter


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