L.A.’S GROUP PSYCHOLOGY

LOS ANGELES — As the city’s fledgling fashion week continues to find its way, several new designer group shows entered the mix during the fall market that ended last week.
Ironically, this move took place just as Gen Art bowed out due to lack of sponsorship. In fact, it was always the one group show that not only promised a degree of professional production, but had a selection process assuring that the designers they chose to show really warranted attention.
That, too, was the initial promise held by the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers, founded in 1999 with members that included Alicia Lawhon, Cynthia Vincent, Monah Li and Magda Berliner. CLAD returned this season with its most ambitious show to date, thanks to the corporate sponsorship of Hornburg Jaguar. But the group’s latest generation packs less of a punch. The presentation at the historic El Rey Theater also reminded more than one guest of a fashion school graduation show, albeit one with Macy Gray, Mena Suvari and Nikki Costa in the audience, and birthday girl Niki Harris as host.
Among the highlights were Nikolaki’s great wool knickers worn with a shiny red silk top, as well as a disco-ready gold silk dress. Knickers also appeared at Goretti, in silk, paired with sheer ladylike blouson tops. Electric Barbarella’s handkerchief tops with lace-up waists and plaid knee-length pants worn with knee-high boots were cool, while denim was the draw at 10:02, including a rockin’ pair of flared jeans softened with lace inlays.
While group shows are always worth a look, several newcomers didn’t seem to realize that, if retailers and editors show up, they expect to see clothes that will actually be produced. Jose Angel, for example, who showed his contemporary line twice — once on his own and a week later as part of the “Comrades Unite” umbrella — featured a cute wraparound jumpsuit and trousers slit thigh-high, but when guests inquired about their availability, he said that it would take at least a season before he’d be able to make them. That same mentality pervaded the debut show of the Los Angeles Independent Designers group. Of the six designers who showed at the downtown loft space, only Tamir Golan is manufacturing his second-skin leather and suede separates marked by cutouts, scalloped edges and lacing. The line now sells solely at Rinaldi on Robertson Boulevard. Young contemporary and contemporary buyers, however, might also be interested in John J. Sakalis’ bias-cut, Missoni-esque knits; Armine Petrosyan’s tweaked classics such as turtlenecks and pants with strategically-placed lace insets; Carol Ai Tran’s strapless wool jumpsuit, and Ghia Ci Fam’s puffed-up jackets in a shiny, coated twill. Men’s wear designer Donny Barrios may even pick up a female fan or two: He showed some of his tailored suits on a woman, and she looked great. But it is hard to take this group seriously. After all, they go by the acronym L.A.I.D., preceded by the word “get.”
If that title smacks of frat boys, then the two group events organized by designer De Anna Brooks at the darkly lit Hollywood nightclub Star Shoes suggested art-school pretension. The first, on April 12, was said to be inspired by the Situationists, a leftist group of artists and activists from the sixties, primarily in France, who eschewed the capitalist system.
Yet the five designers she gathered for a show entitled “Dite Oui a Faire Chier au Lit” (that’s “say yes to s–tting in the bed”) didn’t exactly shatter any conventions. Cutting up a Sex Pistol T-shirt and colored knits and piecing them together is simply cute and, unfortunately for designer Oskar de la Cruz, a pretty played-out concept right now.
The leader of this pack, however, is Kime Buzzelli, who sells many of these designers at her Echo Park hangout, Show Pony. Buzzelli’s angle: Woodstock in the Eighties. Think turquoise boatneck tops paired with a hippie floral skirt.
The “Comrades Unite” presentation got off to a promising start with Antonio Aguilar’s suits and separates with hints of Vivienne Westwood and Thierry Mugler. The rest of the designers though, still have a way to go. Sarah Cake and Chrys Wong both went the raw-edged, strips-of-lace-and-tulle route, but it no longer has the impact it did when other local designers showed it several seasons ago. De Anna Brooks went girly with cute drop-waist skirts, while JP Dawn & Prospect 44 wrapped ribbons around the ankles of pants. As for Julie Delpy’s collection, she should stick with the jersey dresses. That, or acting.
The group, which showed under the “Make Fashion Not War!” umbrella at the John Q Studios, delivered some nice, no-fuss clothes. Suotmoto’s corduroy tube tops and A-line denim skirts or Fahmina’s leather halters and tops in shaved shearling and leather are the kinds of clothes girls want to wear.
Mother Earth is the muse for Deseo 23, a collective of nine friends who met at Brooks College in Long Beach. Using hemp and cotton exclusively, designers Daniel S. Gonzalez and T were at their best when they kept it simple, as in the ivory woven hoodie and drawstring pants. More complicated pieces, such as the pants covered in multicolored shreds from the knee down, were a bit too contrived.
Not to be outdone by Angelenos, a few of Orange County’s streetwear brands put on a party-cum-show at Costa Mesa hot spot, Detroit. The cheeky punk look was everywhere, from Paul Frank’s naughty schoolgirl styles to Shepard Fairey’s T-shirts, tracksuits and hoodies with the “Andre the Giant” logo.

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