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DIRECTIONS : Some of L. A.'s Best Designers Break New Ground, but Stay True to Their Signature Styles

August 21, 1992|MAUREEN SAJBEL | Special to The Times

Leather Heads

Chrome Hearts leather jackets first caught the eye of fashion-watchers about three years ago, when Cher and other rock 'n' rollers started wearing them. Now the L. A. label's gone platinum. The pricey leather goods are turning up on supermodels Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, and appearing in Vogue and in stores like Bergdorf Goodman.

Says Maxfield owner Tommy Perse, who has the line exclusively in L. A.: "There are customers who are totally committed to it."

But in spite of its rapid rise on the global fashion horizon, Chrome Hearts remains a small, custom-order company. Don't even bother to ask the three partner/designers--who call themselves "hippie bikers"--about the latest trends.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday August 31, 1992 Home Edition View Part E Page 2 Column 6 View Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
'The Real McCoy'--Donna O'Neal is the costume designer for the film, "The Real McCoy," which was mentioned in an Aug. 21 fashion story on menswear for women.

"I don't pay attention to seasons," says Leonard Kamhout, who creates the decorative, handmade silver hardware for jackets, vests and jeans. "I don't even pay attention to centuries."

Case in point: The longer length on Chrome Hearts' newest motorcycle, military and hunting jackets isn't a fall fashion statement. Says Richard Stark, who, along with John Bowman, rounds out the Chrome Hearts trio, "We just now got around to doing them," he says with an amused shrug.

Master Tailor

Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo wore men's clothes long before it was the style. They actually helped make it the style in the '40s. Now that menswear for women is making a serious comeback, L. A. designer Richard Tyler is in his element.

Tyler is a menswear designer at heart. He's designed some of the most Mod-meets-Melrose versions for women. And lately, he's added a few more options.

Among them, the white dress Anjelica Huston wore to her wedding reception and the '40s-inspired slip dress that Kim Basinger wore the day she got her star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Now Tyler is designing Basinger's wardrobe for the film, "The Real McCoy."

For fall, regular customer Julia Roberts has ordered a velvet coat and several suits with vests. Tyler likes to substitute vests for blouses to accent the sexy version of woman-in-menswear. "I also love women in tuxes," he says. "Julia has some."

His newest pantsuits are cut in textured wool, or viscose, a synthetic silk-like fabric, and he often mixes in colorful Chinese brocade vests. The collection also includes his perennial take on the motorcycle jacket--this season it's red wool, to wear with a narrow, knee-covering skirt. The collection is available in his Tyler Trafficante shop, Charles Gallay and Neiman Marcus. Prices start at about $500.

Long-Lived Layers

A local designer who isn't too worried about the trend toward discount shopping and budget buys is Harriet Selwyn. She compares her clothing designs with their minimal styling and maximum-quality fabrics to high-priced generic goods. "Like an expensive Gap," she says. But she sees them as clothes to wear for years. "They're based on non-obsolescence."

Selwyn's fall collection of basic shapes in deep, warm colors is made of matte jersey, a dense but very supple fabric. Two years ago, she took a risk and resurrected this fabric, last popular in the '70s, for her dresses. "It's a soft fabric and women felt it would show every lump and bump," she says. "It doesn't, especially if you layer it." She puts jumpers over T-shirt-like tops, for example.

Selwyn also works in pleated silk, velvet, wool knit and a waffle-textured chiffon that she calls "thermal pleated" because of its resemblance to the texture of long underwear. Prices range from $200 to $600 for everything but the cashmere-and-wool-blend coats, which have the comfortable slouch of a relaxed parka and are priced into the thousands. Her label is carried in all Barneys New York stores, Savannah in Santa Monica, Tracey Ross in Los Angeles and Avant Garde in Beverly Hills.

Luxe Meets Tux

James Tarantino's fall collection speaks to the sensual side of menswear for women, and the look he loves is right out of the past: Sleek and shapely women's jackets inspired by men's tuxedos from the '20s paired with pants or long skirts.

"The new lapels are curvy and the understated elegant shape and the button details are old," says Tarantino.

Tarantino is known for his dresses and this season he has plenty of them. They include easy swing shapes and portrait-collared cocktail dresses. "I do a lot of dresses, but I like the option of separates," says the designer. He's rounded out his fall line with classic skirts, trench coats and wrap blouses in dressy silks. Prices range from $375 for a blouse, to about $600 for dresses. The label is carried at Neiman Marcus and Greta in Beverly Hills and Shauna Stein in Los Angeles.

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