Costume designer Erica Nicotra O’Neill saw a void in the Los Angeles apparel market for feminine everyday dresses that harkened back to her grandmother’s wardrobe in post-WWII Sicily (think Claudia Cardinale on a bicycle), so she decided to launch Lavinia & Co., which made its debut over the weekend at Susan Traylor’s Laurel Canyon home for a trunk show hosted by Amelia Fleetwood, Apple Via, Patrik Milani and Zoe Cassavetes.
Named for her children Lavinia, 3, and Cassius, 1, the line of dresses and smocks is an alternative to the “casual lifestyle” lines that pervade Los Angeles. “I started feeling like there’s this cult of [T-shirts] and sweats. Dresses have become like dress-up as opposed to normal things to wear,” said Nicotra O’Nell, an FIT grad and former commercial stylist whose film credits include “Tanner Hall.” “It was from doing movies that I realized you could make the things. Right after I did the film ‘The Truth About Emanuel’ with Jessica Biel, I was inspired by her ethereal wardrobe.”
While pregnant with her daughter, she took time off and started to design the line, which includes three styles, a fitted dress called the Annbel, a gathered blouson dress called the Rooney — named after “Tanner Hall” star Rooney Mara, who was wearing a similar style when they met — and the Cottage Smock pinafore with a matching headscarf that also comes in girls’ sizes. Made with cotton, rayon, heavyweight jersey and some vintage fabrics, the line is mostly made in downtown Los Angeles. Retail prices range from $345 for an eyelet Annabel dress, $289 for a rayon Rooney and $79 for a smock.
The line launched online this weekend in addition to the home trunk show, where shoppers included Minnie Driver and Marisa Tomei, but Nicotra O’Neill is also excited about its wholesale potential. “My intention is to do it slowly in terms of styles. I’ll do these three silhouettes in different fabrics, and add a skirt, top and lightweight three-quarter-sleeve jacket. I’m sticking with a California temperature in terms of seasons.”