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Designers to Watch in Los Angeles

The designers showing during fashion week have backgrounds as varied as their points of view.

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The designers showing during fashion week have backgrounds as varied as their points of view. Here, some contemporary labels, both new and more seasoned.


JOEY TIERNEY
It seems natural for the celebrity stylist to segue into design. Joey Tierney burst onto the fashion scene in 2002, styling Britney Spears with partner Tanya Tamburin. They created a line of graffiti-print miniskirts and T-shirts for Spears, called Joey and T, which launched at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios in April 2003. The line, like the pop princess, eventually crashed and burned. Tierney moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2004 and began dressing clients Jaime Pressly and Andy Garcia for the red carpet. “But I never stopped designing,” she said. “That would be like asking a musician to stop writing songs.” Her tastes have grown more sophisticated, and she was influenced partly by Garcia’s natty style. About a year ago, Tierney began working on a new collection, but kept it under wraps until last week, when she got a silent partner and decided to return to the tents in Culver City. The 40-piece line, with an average wholesale price point of $100 to $300, is based on black lace with some navy, gray and a few splashes of emerald green. She calls the silhouettes “a cross between Helmut Newton and Bianca Jagger. I had grown pretty conservative, but styling Juliette Lewis and The Licks (the actress’ band) inspired me to put a little funk in it,” she said. The line features tuxedo shorts with a matching vest, lace rompers, short dresses, pencil skirts and a jacket with a pocket square, inspired by Garcia. “Can you believe it? I went from being on the road with Britney going, ‘Let’s make fun skirts!’ to a pocket square.”

CRISPIN & BASILIO
After a year of growth, Donny Barrios is ready to pop the Champagne. His line, Crispin & Basilio, sells at Neiman Marcus and Intermix, and the former men’s wear designer, who was born in Manila and educated at the Fashion Institute of Technology, is beginning to build on a look of softness and mobility mixed with tailoring. “L.A., for me, has always been more of a party scene,” he said. “We have already sold at our New York markets, so the pressure is released. Now, we are ready to celebrate in a way that would be appropriate to our customer.” His presentation at a Culver City art gallery will be a showcase for 12 looks from his 75-piece collection, which wholesales from $100 to $298 and was inspired by the lesser-known sportswear designs of Charles James, who died in 1978. “He was known for his eveningwear and embellishment, but his sportswear pieces are based on form and architecture and have a consistency that is seasonless,” Barrios said. “I want that consistency to inform my line so that we can build a voice.” Barrios rose to the challenge of taking the thickest of warm fabrics — wool felts and gabardines — and giving them drape and movement as well as structure in jackets. His signature ivory silk chiffons once again are shaped into voluminous tunics and short dresses. For outerwear, he took the athletic-inspired cropped, hooded jacket and fashioned it in brocade and jacquard, and cut a tailored blazer in terry cloth. “I love to twist fabric into ‘inappropriate’ silhouettes,” he said. “My men’s wear background has given me the uttermost careful respect for designing for women. Sometimes your liabilities can turn out to be your voice.”

AS IS BY ALVIN VALLEY
Although he first gained attention for a trouser that became a staple of New York socialites, Alvin Valley said Los Angeles is his most important market. “L.A. is the capital of contemporary fashion, the clothes that even designer customers wear every day. When I started in 2001, I showed my collection to buyers in L.A. before New York. New York buyers have to hear about something before they want to see it, but L.A. buyers just buy what they like,” he said. Valley has decided to show As Is by Alvin Valley, his two-year-old contemporary line ranging from $150 to $300, on the West Coast, having run out of time to show in New York. “I thought, ‘Where else would it be fully appreciated and not overlooked or misunderstood among many other designers?'” he said. The collection builds on looks that go back to his signature tailored pant, but this time with softer pieces such as silk jacquard blouses, bodysuits and leather jackets with a late-Seventies/early-Eighties vibe. “I wanted to take the things that my mother would wear in 1981 and update them for today’s young girl who hasn’t seen them,” he said.

LITERATURE NOIR
The time that Elliot Hans and Kaya B. spend in London and Istanbul informs their collection for Literature Noir, the Goth-meets-rococo line that they will launch at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios. “We call it a European specification with an American rock ‘n’ roll edge,” said Hans, co-founder of Morphine Generation, which he sold last year. Literature Noir, with 30-piece collections for men and women, is priced at $45 to $300 at wholesale and sells at stores such as Hip Adventures, Madison and Intermix. The designers said they have never been fans of leather jackets, yet they discovered supple lambskins in Kaya B.’s native Turkey and became inspired to fashion it into details, such as elbow patches and seam covers, as well as dress bodices, vests and jackets. Dresses feature modern stud embellishments and romantic allover prints screened in black over latte or black jersey. Fittingly, the collection is called Voyager de Temps, or “time travel.” The designers chose to showcase their line on a runway because “we don’t believe in the party scene,” Hans said. “We want it be about clothes and media and press.”

ALMS
Isabelle Carter, a former model and stylist who studied design at Parsons (now called Parsons The New School for Design), always had a knack for creating her own look. Her two-and-a-half-year-old line, Alms, combines her native French sensibility with a modern spin. Her third full collection, 35 pieces total, about 20 of which will be shown at the Gen Art New Garde installation, is at once a nod to military tailoring, Forties dress silhouettes and diluted ethnic references. New for this season are sweater knits: long V-neck wool cardigans with buttons down the front and back, and cashmere sweater coats. Carter’s pieces average at $100 to $200 wholesale. “As a designer and a stylist, it’s tough to find that middle ground between art and commerce,” she said. “As much as I would like to be free in the creative process, in today’s world, it’s impossible.” Her pieces sell in fashion-forward boutiques such as Scout in Los Angeles; Ruthie in Van Nuys, Calif., and Nichia in Chicago. Carter’s own minimal style informs her love of seasonless clothes. “That’s the French side of me. We buy a lot of classic pieces instead of that one crazy dress,” she said. But she plays on shapes and fabrics (a striped red-and-white wool sweater knit with a touch of Lurex becomes a puff-sleeve coat with a ruffle at the neck) as well as simple pieces like slouchy sand-washed silk dresses. Her palette consists of gray, ivory and purple, as well as a range of indigos, inspired by the indigenous Miao people of China, who believe in the spiritual powers of the blue dye. Carter borrowed the double collar from their native dress, but “it came out looking more French military than ethnic,” she said.

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