Fashion From The Left Coast

October 25, 2009 • Magazine

Fashion From The Left Coast

Fashion From The Left Coast

Sun, 2009-10-25 12:00

Joseph Ungoco

Downtown LA Fashion Week kicked off with – of course – a red carpet! Fashion Group International’s Los Angeles chapter hosted a gala event under starry skies on the roof terrace of the downtown Standard Hotel. The evening recognized over 30 of LA’s most influential designers. Among the designers – with skyscraper models in tow – were master of the red carpet Randolph Duke, master of the drape Lloyd Klein, Project Runway alumnus Nick Verreos, and the esteemed James Galanos. Klein stunned the prone to hysterics French fashion community when he was appointed the head designer at the venerable Maison Mme. Gres. Galanos was one of the very first designers to be honored with a plaque on New York’s Fashion Walk of Fame, Galanos continues to be an influential force in fashion, occasionally weighing in on polarizing topics such as ageism in fashion design. You may recall that he designed the “first” white beaded one-shouldered gown that graced a certain First Lady of California at her movie star husband’s first round of inaugural balls.

This season, Los Angeles was home to two competing sets of fashion shows. DLAFW was hosted at the ultramodern Geffen Center at MOCA and LA Fashion on Broadway was hosted at the sumptuous Los Angeles Theater. Thankfully, you really don’t have to worry about parking because Cher Hororwitz was right in Clueless – everywhere you go does have valet! Between Fast and the Furious-style street through downtown, I managed to catch some of the very best that Los Angeles has to offer in fashion design.

Designer David Alexander presented a supersexy collection of cocktail and evening dresses that were made for the Vanity Fair Oscar party. The Dare to Love theme carried through the collection in curve hugging silhouettes and animal print insets. The floor length black sequined number had the assembled crowd applauding on their feet. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Future Heretics envisioned a time when fashion warriors take to the streets to undermine a fascist fashion regime. LA’s subversive fashion culture hit the runway with graphic T’s for men that proclaimed that “the white man is the devil” and ripped denim for woman as well as exposed zipper pencil skirts that bordered on fetish wear.

If red carpet design is a major step on the way to becoming a global fashion brand, then Oliver Tolentino seems poised to follow his fellow Filipino designer Monique Lhuillier. Tolentino took classic Spanish-Filipino design elements like the terno silhouette with its butterfly sleeves and the delicate sheer pina fabric that is hand-woven from pineapple fibers and gave them a modern edge. The full-skirted puff sleeve short dresses seem a little Disney princess at first glance but would be perfect for the Teen Choice Awards red carpet. Tolentino’s longer offerings had to be seen to be believed. His one-shouldered red evening gown was a vision to behold as it seemed to float along the runway!

LA-based designer Mike Vensel presented a deceptively simple collection of jersey dresses in a spare palette of black, grey and cream. The genius of this up-and-coming designer’s talent was revealed in the collection notes where he explained that he engineered single pattern pieces to created magnificently draped pieces that were constructed from a single piece of fabric and the bare minimum number of seams. Clean lines broken only by ease of movement ruled Vensel’s runway. The showstopper pieces of the collection were the seemingly simple dresses enhanced by black hackle feathers. My personal favorite was the short asymmetrical dress with one sleeve made entirely of feathers. Why should Cher be the only one to rock a hackle?

My snobbier colleagues in fashion may sniff that “LA Fashion” is “an oxymoron”, but I say that fashion is about context. If fashion in NYC is what separates you from the “suits on the subway”, then LA fashion is what separates you from “track suits at lunch”! Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can achieve great change. A handful of LA-based designers are rising above their denim, graphic T, and flip flop roots to push the fashion envelope. Let’s have their backs!

1. WENN (from FGILA)
2. WENN (from FGILA)
3. David Alexander: photo by Mary Showstark
4. David Alexander: photo by Mary Showstark
5. Future Heretics: Stefanie Keenan for WWD
6. Future Heretics: Stefanie Keenan for WWD
7. Oliver Tolentino: photo by Mary Showstark
8. Oliver Tolentino: photo by Mary Showstark
9. Mike Vensel Stefanie Keenan for WWD
10. Mike Vensel Stefanie Keenan for WWD

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