It is safe to say that there has never, ever been a runway show like the one Grant Krajecki staged in L.A. on Sunday night. In the past five seasons, the designer’s undying love of high-camp Eighties fashion — the kind that’s sexy and fun, but still makes you cringe — has made his Gray Ant line this city’s answer to Jeremy Scott.
It was Krajecki’s first solo presentation. Decked out in his fall clothes, a troupe of ultra-energetic, provocative and wild professional dancers, working under the name Psycho Dance Sho, took to the runway at Vinyl. Three came fresh from Cher’s tour, two from Ricky Martin’s and another arrived from the set of a music video she’s choreographing.
They leapt and slithered without missing a single beat from first to last, staging a fake rumble and a hilarious dance-off in which the winner was awarded a 40 oz. bottle of Colt 45 beer. The sultry tango, however, didn’t end quite as well. As one dancer cut the dress off another with a knife — to reveal a teeny bikini underneath — his hand slipped, sending the unlucky woman to a local emergency room for 20 stitches. (“She’s fine,” a Gray Ant representative reported.)
“I was standing there with my mouth half open,” says Steven Alan, who has carried the line in his stores in New York and Japan for the last four seasons. “I didn’t get to see the clothes, but I saw what they were about.” Gray Ant, which wholesales from $30 to $175, is also carried by Nyse and Ron Herman/Fred Segal in L.A. and Joyce in Hong Kong.
In the show’s single quiet moment, models in Krajecki’s crisp New Wave cottons wandered the runway carrying maps and suitcases, like kids just off the bus to Hollywood. “That was kind of autobiographical,” says the designer, 32, who left Oak Park, Ill., for Hollywood at 21.
“My friend and I came here with no money. We were practically homeless and sleeping in the park when my friend hooked up with these people at a party who were looking for someone to design costumes for a porn film. I was like, ‘I’ll do it! I’ll design anything.”‘ His first creations were for Siamese twins who were prosthetically attached at the hip.
“Then I got a job with Joe Blank making up feathered headdresses for the showgirls on cruise ships and in Vegas. It was so fun. This guy had learned it all from drag queens in New Orleans in the Forties. He was like a living legend.”
Once he decided to get serious about design, however, Krajecki decided a move to New York was in order. “I said, ‘I don’t want the stamp of L.A. designer — I’ll never make it.’ But I don’t know how anyone does it in New York with no money. You have to mingle at high-society parties where some old lady says, ‘Love your clothes, dahling! I’ll give you money.”‘
Krajecki set out for L.A. once again, got a day job in a coffee shop and worked on his line all night long. “The next thing you know, orders here and orders there, and I had to move out of my house because the business was spreading into my bedroom.
“Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, L.A. is tired. Let’s not even bother looking there,”‘ he adds. “But people are just realizing that maybe there is something here.” Krajecki and company are currently researching the possibilities of putting on a repeat performance of the show in New York — as long as he doesn’t have to go to any society parties.