Richard Tyler: Richard Tyler is in the mood for love. In what was one of the more romantic — and focused — presentations last week, one got the feeling that Tyler is simply giddy about life. And just as his Tyler and bridal collections, which he showed in New York before bringing them to L.A., fit into the flirty mood set there and in Europe, his signature line continued in the same flou. Here, his message was lightness, best illustrated in the wispy organza cocktail numbers and silk chiffon gowns in melon, teal and rose. Even a sporty suede jacket and capri set looked feather-weight in a hushed blush. And for those who keep an eye on the designer for his red carpet knockouts, surely a new generation of starlets will love the short, white lace tunic or metallic lace dress.
Louis Verdad: Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. When this sexy, saucy Forties lady walked Louis Verdad’s runway last week, the only thing she was missing was a long, skinny cigarette holder, clearly mindful of California’s smoking ban. To a soundtrack that included “Bésame Mucho,” Verdad channeled such golden screen sirens as Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez and Rita Hayworth. That meant beautifully tailored linen jackets and trousers, pretty patterned cotton skirts and chic trenches, the best in a muted botanical print. While the presentation and styling was overly evocative of the Forties, the clothes were anything but kitsch, especially the swingy, draped jersey pieces — the kind modern-day stars, such as fans Madonna and Cate Blanchett, might wear.
Alicia Lawhon: Brains, beauty and style. Now that’s a triple threat. Alicia Lawhon channeled a chic college girl, both brilliant and kooky, for her spring signature collection as well as her AL line of one-of-a-kind looks. Lawhon’s cool girl has a closet full of diaphanous slips, knee-skimming skirts and Fifties-style beaded cardigans, all with a laid-back thrift store appeal. She focused her eye for the eclectic into one or two details per look. Cases in point: A shrunken jacket and trousers got a girly dose of flou thanks to an emerald green ruffle down the front; a sporty tank featured two big fabric-covered buttons. For AL, meanwhile, she used small fanciful touches — sequined mesh strips used as scarfs or belts and vintage slips cut into trims — on otherwise simple silhouettes.
Ashley Paige: It’s swimwear yes, but Ashley Paige’s collection of bikinis and one-pieces went far beyond the beach and pool. Her trademark detail is a fine gauge crochet, which, this season, fell across the golden-tanned models in fluid flounces and gossamer tiers, all worked into slinky suits. It was all very Seventies in a supersexy, albeit all-American, style, the kind personified by Farrah Fawcett and her megawatt smile. The crocheted cuts gave the effect of a gift-wrapped body, with little strings and ties wrapped enticingly around the sides of a plunging V-shaped suit. She riffed on macramé swimwear, but in a more refined, well-crafted way. And it would be a shame to relegate the suits to just the water and sun — they’d be gorgeous worn with a skirt or pants, too. The collection had a sunny sophistication and her handful of non-swim pieces — a pantsuit, jumper and dresses— showed that Paige is an inventive designer whose strength in swimwear could easily transfer into clothes.
Frankie B.: A little Seventies rock ’n’ roll — and its dreamy, surreal optimism — can go a long way. Especially at Daniella Clarke’s Frankie B. And just to make sure everyone understood the theme, a tom-tom drummer walked the runways thumping the distinctive drum beat of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk,” which kicked off her denim-heavy presentation. Body-hugging, derriere-revealing jeans partnered with bohemian-tinged baby doll halters, billowy tunics, and her new knit tops in sheer, fluid styles. Classic Seventies styles got a new spin, such as corduroy jackets in Lifesaver shades of pink lemonade and green tea with contrast piping or jersey pants worked over with rock chic shirring.
Jenni Kayne: Easily put, Jenni Kayne’s take on Tinseltown was pure “Girls Gone Wild” in the “Valley of the Dolls.” From a giant Barbie-style box, she sent models out in a profusion of lace teddies, exposed-midriff tops and cheek-a-boo miniskirts made of gathered, pleated or slashed materials that barely made it past the hips. At times Kayne got lost in excessive punk ornamentation — studs, slashes and frays. She favored transparent fabrics — an athletic mesh as a minidress with a garter-shaped hem — and exaggerated the L.A. stereotype: fitted T-shirts with fallen bra straps or an unlined lace minidress with only two bands of patent leather to cover up the goods. The best were tailored pieces such as a fitted blazer slashed up the back and decorated with a few square studs.
Eduardo Lucero: Eduardo Lucero grew up in Durango, Mexico, amidst 16 women — his mother, aunts and cousins — the muses for his spring collection. Apparently, those ladies believed in more is more, because Lucero’s show had it all: elaborate fabrics done up with flou, frill, flowers and more trimmings than the Thanksgiving bird. And while the feast sometimes satisfied, as with a group of pretty, short dresses — in champagne silk with a strategically placed flower on a shoulder or at the waist, and in lavender satin with an open back — overall, it all turned just too much and too matronly.
Susana Mercedes: It’s clear why the socialites who seek out Susana Mercedes for custom work, the bulk of her business, look to the model-turned-designer for gala gowns. A black mini ballerina dress is ready for cocktails; a long baby-pink flamenco skirt ideal for a tango, and the wide-legged charmeuse trousers with organza tuxedo stripes can go to opening night at the opera. Mercedes certainly loves her silk charmeuse, ruffles and bows — almost too much. That said, her finale ballgown skirt, which took four months to complete thanks to the hundreds of tiny, hand-embroidered roses, hit the mark. While quality is there — too many frocks looked right for prom, a lucrative industry in itself, but Mercedes clearly has her sights set on more.