LOS ANGELES FASHION WEEK KICKS OFF TONIGHT WITH THE FIRST OF SEVEN CONSECUTIVE EVENINGS WORTH OF SHOWS. BY DAY, THERE’S THE FALL MARKET BUYING SPREE IN DOWNTOWN, WHICH RUNS FRIDAY THROUGH TUESDAY. BUYERS FROM LONDON, TOKYO AND NEW YORK ARE RENTING CARS AND FANNING OUT IN SEARCH OF THE NEXT NEW LOOK OR TALENT. HERE, THE CLIFF NOTES TO BEING IN THE KNOW.
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones / Kristin Young
Michelle Mason Goes Second
LOS ANGELES — Leave it to Michelle Mason to steer clear of get-rich-quick ventures such as that modern-day uniform of jeans and T-shirts.
The designer who changed recent outside perceptions of California fashion with her Victorian collars and space-age boots believes “there’s enough of that in the market.” So, instead, her new diffusion line, called Mason, is filled with the kind of edgier, tailored pieces her followers have come to expect.
But the line, which bowed quietly in February in New York, is just under half the price of her acclaimed designer line. Jersey or poplin tops wholesale at $60 to $70; wool or twill pants, $80; jackets, $140.
Local fabric resources — versus the European yardage imported for the designer line — keep costs down, she said. “I didn’t compromise on the fit, the cuts. Instead of a merino wool, I’m using a merino wool-acrylic blend.”
She hopes the second line will mean the still-fledgling, self-financed company will break $1 million in sales in this, its fifth year. With Mason, department stores can finally become a possibility, she noted, adding that buyers had planted the seed for this type of line three years ago.
“Stores felt there was a demographic who want to buy the name but can’t afford it,” said Mason. “The trickiest thing is not steering too far from my [aesthetic], but keeping the two distinct. The designer line is more detail-oriented, more individual, more luxurious.”
The “city looks” of Mason, on the other hand, can appeal to a broader customer. Among the 100 pieces for fall are distressed leather jackets, nubby knits, wool blended suitings, poplin blouses and jersey dresses.
Both lines are at Hatch in the New Mart; the showroom took a temporary SoHo space in New York to unveil the line there.
While the economy, admitted Mason, “had a big impact” on her decision, the launch “wasn’t a desperate move. But I thought it was as good a time as any.”
Also thinking that way is Mason’s former boss and mentor, Richard Tyler. This week, he launches a secondary line in a similar price point to Mason’s. The new line, too, is identified only by the designer’s last name.
While neither one has seen the other’s line (“We’ve both been pretty crazed,” she said), Mason plans to be at Tyler’s runway debut Friday night. When asked what lines would hang with their own, they each cited the other’s.
Tyler, though, won’t be able to return the favor: Mason announced last week that a lack of sponsorship lead to canceling her show this Saturday as scheduled. The news is considered a loss to Fashion Week here, since it’s been the most highly anticipated show in recent seasons.
But Mason said she’s not letting it bring her down. She knows she’ll be back. And she’s got two locally produced lines to oversee, including shoes under the Michelle Mason name.
PALM SPRINGS PASSION
LOS ANGELES — Why Palm Springs?
It’s the question Trina Turk fields regularly, about why she located her first store two hours east of Los Angeles.
“The answer is I loved the space,” said Turk, who for nearly seven years has shipped her signature contemporary line to Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus and built revenues of $50 million a year. Laurie Hasson in the New Mart represents the line.
“It’s in a Sixties building by Albert Frey, a really important Modernist architect,” she said, citing the 891 North Palm Canyon Drive address on the city’s main drag. The 2,000 square-foot shop opened March 22. Turk projects $500,000 in first-year sales.
Turk and her fashion photographer husband, Jonathan Skow, were renovating their own Modernist house nearby, a project that lured them to the desert almost weekly. They found the empty storefront on a drive-by.
“If I had found this space in Los Angeles, I would have gone for it,” she said. Indeed, once Turk finds a suitable space here in the the next year, she’ll hang her shingle again. Until then, customers are placing phone orders to the store — which is proving lucrative, said Turk, or they make the trek to Palm Springs.
Interior designer Kelly Wearstler, known for revamping Los Angeles boutique hotels Avalon and Maison 140 in a modern-meets-vintage style, made Turk’s store nearly all white. Chalky pebble-like tiles and plush white shag cover the floor. A white floral print on silver foil covers the ceiling. She added reflective, sparkly surfaces and crystal beads hanging from the ceiling. In a radical twist, the dressing rooms are acid yellow.
Mirrored alcoves contain Turk’s wares: caftans in white, coral and coffee cotton for $66; silk georgette knee-length dresses with belled sleeves in bright prints that can double as tunics for $190, and Turk’s first swimwear collection comprising mostly bikinis. The triangle tops with low-rider briefs in Turk’s signature vintage patterns sell for $120.
“It’s this whole cocktail-party-by-the- pool vibe,” she said. “People are buying mid-century homes here and are furnishing them. You need clothes to complete the whole thing.”
LOS ANGELES — Contemporary designer Estevan Ramos and celebrity stylist Daniel Caudill — just a couple of self-proclaimed homeboys from Silverlake — have decided to venture into retail in that distinctly artist ‘hood with the opening of EastSide.
The 650-square-foot shop, opening Thursday, is Ramos’ first store and the home of Caudill’s first women’s line. It also promises to be a trove of eclectic vintage finds, furniture and art.
“The space was already there,” said Ramos, noting the address at 4150 Santa Monica Boulevard has housed part of his studio for the past four years. Caudill rents the space next door, to store his music video costumes and wardrobe for celebrity editorials.
“The rent is dirt cheap and it’s a good experiment,” Ramos added.
The store is divided into four sections. First there’s a “Goth-punk rock-preppy-Chinese” area housing Caudill’s women’s line. Man-tailored wool pants, wool crepe, knee-length pencil skirts and micro-pleated skirts hang with leather jackets and oversized wool crepe capes lined in red silk. The stylist-cum-designer hopes to expand into wholesale.
Ramos inhabits the hybrid “multi-ethnic/denim” section featuring pillows festooned with Mexican calendar girls, reworked Seventies racing jackets at $95 and denim tops at $60, among vintage cowboy boots and belts.
The “white” section spotlights Ramos’ karate jackets with detachable sleeves ($100) and karate capri drawstring pants ($60). Pottery, handbags and hats round out the white theme.
Lastly, men will find Dickies, T-shirts and Levi’s for that “white-trashy punk rock look,” said Caudill.
Already generating $1.5 million in annual sales from his six-year-old wholesale business, Ramos called EastSide his and Caudill’s “own personal playground.” He offered no sales projection for the store, reiterating its experimental focus. “How many designers have an opportunity to play around and be creative?”