PLAYING DRESS UP
LOS ANGELES MAY BE KNOWN FOR ITS DRESSED-DOWN VIBE, BUT CHANGE IS IN THE AIR. FROM CORNELL COLLINS’ ELEGANT LADIES TO RAMI KASHOU’S CHIC TAKE ON THE T-SHIRT, DRESSING-UP IS CLEARLY THE WEST COAST WAY THIS FALL.

Cornell Collins: Who could resist the hand-written invitation from Frau Grete Rodatz von Dulong? It urged guests to view the new collection of “a most peculiar and passionate young gentleman” who had provided her with a new wardrobe for the bitter-cold months ahead somewhere in Eastern Europe. And so what if Rodatz von Dulong, an exiled Polish aristocrat, is merely fictional? Collins’ affinity for elegance, much like Grete’s, has often steered him toward ambitious formalwear. But for fall he opted to put a stronger focus on day clothes, artfully redirecting fabrics, shapes and embellishments more typically suited for evening. That combination, demonstrated for example, in a hearty tweed coat over a wispy silk chiffon dress and gabardine pants, left no question of Collins’ confidence in his new direction. Rich details such as swirling seams on bias-cut suits, a gathered mink trim on the neckline of a paisley dress and silk lining in nubby coats provided just the right touch of luxe. It’s no wonder Grete felt compelled to write home about it.

Rami Kashou: Kashou is ready for his close-up. L.A.’s latest star-in-the-making sent out a tight, beautifully executed collection in the historic Los Altos building that was once the home of Judy Garland and other silver-screen queens such as Bette Davis and Greta Garbo. Kashou’s earthy goddesses worked his sensual, draped and ruched jersey pieces down the grand foyer staircase, teetering in sky-high heels. He loves unusual details, and there were plenty here, from tops with braided corsets, ruched sleeves or attached strips that looped down to the knee, to classic wide-leg trousers with long fringe dangling down the seams. From the operatic solo from “Porgy and Bess” that opened the show, to the 26-year-old designer’s final bow, the crowd was clearly pleased.

Tyler: Richard Tyler loves his women fierce, sexy and ready to rock. He also loves them decked in meticulously tailored sportswear. And he hasn’t abandoned any of the above with his new secondary line, which bowed Friday night. The show, his first on a hometown runway since he launched his company here 12 years ago, was held at a cavernous Culver City soundstage large enough to accommodate the masses without irking the fire marshall. It also happened to be one of the liveliest outings of the week — not least because Tyler really scored with a great, wearable (and affordable) collection. The soundtrack of T. Rex, Iggy Pop and The Damned didn’t hurt either. Nor did the after party complete with a live band. Hipsters — and retailers — will love the lean five-pocket pants and shaped jackets in striped velvet, washed denim or camel corduroy. Standouts among the chic, effortless separates included the cap-sleeved, red leather vest; edgy mohair sweaters and wide-leg denim trousers. The black crepe jersey dresses, some with leather or hook-and-eye touches, and a pair of high-heeled boots are no-brainers for a night out.
MartinMartin: In stark contrast to their all-white presentation at the Gen Art show last season, husband-and-wife design team Diane Moss-Martin and Eric Martin offered a fusion of Gothic darkness, sporty comfort and origami-like construction for fall. Both designers have worked for various California labels over the past 20 years, and their collective touch for the two-year-old MartinMartin collection is a restrained one. The two are experts in tailoring and small details: nipped-up hems, knife pleats and moth-eaten holes, to name a few. They also played with layering, topping slim wool gabardine pants with a matching pleated apron, while white cotton skirts peeked out from under long, raw-edged leather skirts. Coats were another strong look, especially a fab distressed wool and cashmere hooded maxi.

V for Violet by Anthony Castro: Leave it to Lizzie Grubman to turn a perfectly nice runway debut into a veritable zoo. At Koi, West Hollywood’s newest hot spot, folks who came to see designer Anthony Castro’s latest venture since ending his brief design partnership with Rebecca Dannenberg last year, were ushered into a jam-packed bar and lounge area only to wait for over an hour before entering an adjoining, art-filled mini ballroom for the show. Fortunately for Castro (and Grubman), the clothes were worth the wait. The New York-based designer sent out a slew of late Sixties, motocross-inspired looks that could make even the toughest doorman lift the velvet rope. Castro’s sexy zip-front skirts and plunging floral tunics are perfect for the army of bronzed, Pilates-slim Westside girls who dominated the scene Saturday night. And when it gets too chilly for flashing skin, they can cover up in cool boucle capes or a moleskin shirtjacket.

Jared Gold: The ringleader of a Warhol-esque factory of freaky artists, muses and assorted club kids, Gold and his pals typically put on one of the week’s most entertaining shows. And as performance art alone, Gold’s presentation in a downtown gallery space he transformed into a pink and powder blue graffiti-splashed theater didn’t disappoint. The cartwheeling, flame-dancing “models” were a hoot. And it was truly fun viewing the parade of looks from Gold’s archives that closed the show. But this season’s efforts, particularly his secondary line Black Chandelier “Motorhead,” lacked his usual imaginative spark. Granted, there were several great separates that were both quirky and clever — the black canvas drop-waist trench coats and the scalloped polo top with swirling palazzo pants, for example. But when it came to his signature line, recently renamed Jared Gold Hardcore, the designer was caught in a Koos van den Akker by way of Balenciaga moment with a lineup of complicated patchwork nipped-waist jackets and full skirts, all saturated in blood-red dye. While these might be fun for a holiday party, they seemed more appropriate for spring than fall.

Lotta: Lotta Stensson may hail from Scandinavia, but it’s her penchant for the embellished bohemian look that keeps the starlets pouring into her Melrose Avenue store. And at her tented show at Moomba in West Hollywood (which doubled as a “Dress For Success” benefit), the designer stayed true to her winning formula. Cozy, overdyed distressed wool coats and ponchos, some sprinkled with turquoise bits, will be perfect toppers for the mild West Coast fall, while decadently embroidered tunics and long coats with a “Dr. Zhivago” vibe looked great, even paired with jeans. Although front-row fan Christina Aguilera nodded in approval at the kitschy HotPants, these looks, along with filmy handkerchief-hem skirts and tops, seemed out of step with the rest of the collection.

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