Shanghai-based designer Helen Lee might have been making her Los Angeles runway debut, but it’s not her first rodeo. An established brand for 12 years in Asia and Australia, Lee said she thought the moment was right to enter the U.S. retail market, which is eager for new contemporary points of view (she also based her decision to show in L.A. on feedback from an Elle China-hosted event here last season).
Her polished fall 2106 take on “clothes for confident women who want to stand out” started with claret flared-leg trousers with cord and tassel detail at the ankle-high slit, topped with a faux sheared mink sporting Chinese characters on the back. The well-edited story progressed to chic, belted faux coyote-fur coats, some luxe cashmere ath-leisure looks, languid mercurylike long velvet dresses (plus a shiny gold number under a wide-shoulder black leather coat) and a post-preppy take with plaid intarsia knits.
All of these were in the claret-red, navy, black and white palette Lee explained were “building blocks” for a woman’s wardrobe. She eventually combined most of the all colors for her finale looks, which sported her signature white bunny motif. It wasn’t as precious as it sounds — the critter looked polished as an abstract graphic print on coats, silk dresses and even a silk robe over coordinated pajamas.
The show unfurled at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, perhaps the most impressive venue of Los Angeles Fashion Week, with its modern red, green and blue buildings providing the backdrop for an outdoor runway flanked by a reflective pool. The complex has been home to Elton John’s Oscar party and other industry events over the years.
It was an unusual choice, but it may be a prescient one. While the fashion show producers’ desire to entertain to nonindustry insiders who simply want to bask in the atmosphere of a “runway” experience may always be at odds with the curated, exclusive events the fashion press expects, the gap may be closing as shows like Helen Lee’s head to a more consumer-friendly format. Perhaps all the endless “who are all these random people?” show experiences here during the last decade were simply a harbinger of things to come. If so, Los Angeles Fashion Week might simply have been ahead of its time.