Attention will focus on local talent during this month’s Los Angeles fashion
events. These designers are ready to take chances, but they are practical, as well, aiming for versatility, ease of dressing and value, for both women’s and men’s, ranging from a line of recycled clothing and jewelry to classics with a twist.
Kelly Bergin launched her first collection in Spring 2008 after graduating from Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 2007 with a Rachel Pally internship under her belt. Fortified by “sheer naïvete and will power,” Bergin, 26, began with fanciful cocktail dresses and eventually moved to basics. Her pared-down pieces, which can be worn from day to night, “reflect modern life in Los Angeles,” she said. “It’s a blend of urban and bohemian pieces with an ease of wear,” she said of her neutral palette of silk, cotton and wool punctuated with a burst of fuchsia chiffon. Some of her favorite pieces, which range from $38 to $225 wholesale, include wool trousers that lace up the back and a gray silk epaulet jacket. This season, Bergin will introduce a chiffon T-shirt line priced from $89 to $98 retail. Though her line sells in Los Angeles boutiques such as Satine, where Bergin will present her collection next week, she still works out of her parents’ pool house. “I’m going to have to get an office sooner or later, but it’s very L.A.,” she said.
When Andi Ballard started her first collection of Seneca Rising in Spring 2009, it was nothing more than a vanity project. Already the co-owner of the men’s and women’s T-shirt line Rebel Yell — her business partner is her brother Daniel — Ballard wanted colorful clothes that were an antidote to recession-influenced, black designs. “I just wanted clothes that made me happy again, and fortunately, other people liked them, too,” said Ballard, 28, who counts celebrities such as Sienna Miller, Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba as fans. Barneys New York, Curve and Ron Herman picked up the line its first season, and it now sells in about 200 doors. Prices range from $31 to $69 wholesale. Named for the street on which Ballard grew up in McLean, Va., the line comprises mostly tops in a tissue-weight cotton mesh onto which she spray dyes custom vintage-inspired prints in a rainbow of pale hues, such as mint green and cornflower blue. This season, Ballard introduced bottoms in lightweight twill, which Los Angeles audiences will see on the Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion runway. “There is a Seventies flower child aesthetic,” she said. “I don’t have much time to get ready each morning, so I made it easy. You can almost close your eyes and take two pieces and they’ll work together.”
MG BLACK LABEL
Erik Hart has come a long way since starting the printed T-shirt line Morphine Generation in his garage six years ago. Now, at 29, his business includes a women’s and men’s young designer line priced from $98 to $650 retail; Erik Hart: Factory of Aesthetics and Dreams, a women’s young contemporary line, Factory by Erik Hart, men’s and women’s collaborations with Topshop and Urban Outfitters, and a young men’s line for Metro Park called Young Machines. Two seasons ago, Hart also launched MG Black Label, a contemporary men’s line priced $30 to $90 wholesale. “T-shirts are great, but sometimes you want another option. For me, a jacket and a woven button-down are defining things in a wardrobe,” said Hart, a self-taught designer who is a musician and graphic artist. Hart described the collection, which will be presented as part of Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion show, as “classic pieces taken out of context with utilitarian and sleek details.” The range mixes technical and traditional fabrics, such as high-sheen nylon, gabardine and wax-coated cotton canvas in a neutral palette punched up with woven shirts in bright colors. MG Black Label sells in Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Fred Segal and Metro Park. “Even though I never had formal design training, every season I challenge myself to make beautiful pieces, so now I have a pretty good palette of references,” Hart said.
Jessica Moss and Lisa Guajardo met as neighbors in Los Angeles in 2003, but they bonded first over their long-haired Chihuahuas before realizing they both worked in fashion. Each had a reworked vintage line and a design background. Moss, 28, studied costume design at UCLA and Guajardo, 35, attended Central Saint Martins in London. Three years later, using a credit card with a $6,000 limit, they started Leyendecker (pronounced Line-decker), which was the surname of Guajardo’s grandmother. Their first collection consisted of just six pieces. Their current collection, part of Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion show, has grown to 135. With inspirations ranging from “post-apocalyptic with a refined finish” and “tribal futuristic,” it’s not surprising the duo works with materials from tie-dyed viscose Spandex to sand washed silk dupioni to printed wool gauze. “Everything has to have a unique texture visually or physically, and we are always interested in manipulating fabric and finding new details,” Moss said of their signature knotting and wrapping on blouses, dresses and tunics. “We don’t do basic. We do gotta-have-it,” she said of the line, which ranges from $48 to $215 wholesale and sells at Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Intermix and Milk. “It’s a lot of bang for your buck.”
RECLAIMED IN LA
If one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, then Alicia Lawhon can create a wardrobe fit for a queen out of discarded men’s suits, Missoni sweaters, shredded silk ribbons and cork beads for Reclaimed in LA, her new line of recycled clothing and jewelry, which will be spotlighted at Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion LA. Of course, the queen possesses an ethnic flair and presides over Wall Street, judging by the overdyed African fabric, khaki and stripes that Lawhon also mixes in her second collection. “It’s a female Wall Street executive who got inspired from traveling through different Third World countries,” Lawhon said. There’s nothing Third World about the prices — a keychain retails for $60, while a sequined dress accentuated with mink costs $2,500. Retailers include Church in Los Angeles and Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica, Calif. If Lawhon’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she once oversaw merchandising at Ron Herman before launching her namesake label at Gen Art in 1998. Now, four years after closing that line, she’s ready to give a sassy spin to sustainable fashion. “All I want to do is beautify what people aren’t using,” she said.