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Critics Applaud Fashion Students


As at many fashion events, the show in the audience was as good as the show on the runway.

Elaine Goldsmith, chairman of Otis School of Art and Design's board of trustees, wore a student-made bead-encrusted chiffon blouse, substituting pajama pants for the original ball gown skirt. Nancy Vreeland, the dinner chair and a former designer, chopped off the sleeves and neck of her new Bill Blass top and wore it backward.

Among the turnout of industry professionals milling inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel's International Ballroom Saturday night for Otis' 11th annual critics award fashion show, the not-to-be-overlooked included New Yorker Todd Oldham doing a green-haired all-American boy look, Gregory Poe in a dark suit with a shaved head (save for a tiny ponytail) and Frank Rizzo, chair of the fashion department at Parsons NYC in an easy cardigan tuxedo.

"I consider this one of the greatest events of the year; it's a great show," said retailer Fred Hayman (in a standard tuxedo), speaking of the official parade of designs by seniors and juniors studying fashion. Senior Sun Lee was voted designer of the year by industry critics who work with the students.

The event is consistently one of L.A.'s most successful and well-attended school fund-raisers. It was expected to raise "five," said Vreeland, meaning $500,000, for scholarships, largely because Georges Marciano underwrote the dinner, Giorgio Armani paid for the decorations and publisher Bud Knapp picked up the dinner program cost.

Although Marlon Brando never showed--he was supposed to be in the audience to see his son, Carlo, model--for one night at least, L.A.'s painful garment and retail-industry recession was like a distant bad dream. Anne Cole, designer of Cole of California swimwear, who was awarded the school's fashion achievement award, said, "The state of the industry is momentary. It will move forward and talent will rise to the top."

Otis President Roger Workman said that "almost 100%" of the graduates find jobs. "We don't just place in L.A," he added.

"They work in New York and the Far East. But those (local) houses that are doing well seem to hire our students."

Although more than half of his retail customers have gone out of business, designer Bob Mackie said, "It's very tough, but there are recessions all through history. When I was in school in the '60s and wanted to be a costume designer, all the studios were closing down. You can't stop your life."

"The fashion industry is no different than any other industry," said Betty Leonard, vice president and general manager of I. Magnin Beverly Hills. "It's a wonderful, fabulous old industry, and we're going to be fine. Nobody here is naked. And look at the enthusiasm tonight for these creative young people."

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