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FASHION : Marty Awards Highlight Menswear Meet


The recent turn of women's fashion toward the dark side--burlap dresses, exposed bosoms, tear-away shifts--has many people looking for light. The women's wear designers seem lost, but maybe the minds behind menswear have something to offer.

That was the hope late last week at the Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles as the Fashion Assn. put on fashion shows, panel discussions and chalk talks about the glory of spring and summer menswear for the nation's fashion press. As part of the package, the California Mart hosted its annual California menswear awards show Thursday night.

Twelve-year design veteran Jules Weinsieder won the top award, the Marty, for his Santa Barbara-based M. Julian/B. Free collection of leather jackets. The Rising Star award went to Michael Lew of Los Angeles for his line of contemporary sportswear called Imaginary Concepts.

"I thought Mossimo (Giannulli) would win," confessed a surprised Weinsieder after the announcement. "My 13-year-old son was sure Moss would win. And on the way to the awards, my wife made me stop at Rudnick's in the Valley so she could buy two Mossimo T-shirts."

Weinsieder's sexy whip-stitched and laced leather jackets made a bigger hit with the voters than did Mossimo's street-savvy thermal shirt jackets and wheat-colored jeans. The thrice-nominated Giannulli is in danger of becoming the Susan Lucci (always a nominee, never a winner) of the Marty awards.

After two days of fashion watching, it seems fair to say that menswear is not as far adrift as women's wear--a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the cognoscenti. Menswear is expected to fuel a chunk of the 3% to 4% increase in consumer sales projected for '94, industry analysts say. After its three-year roll in the gutter with grunge, anything would be an improvement.

The prevailing palette for spring and summer was ivory, white, cream and beige. Jackets were very soft and often unlined. Pants were even softer, many of them pajamalike. Many of the California designers have streamlined their street wear; baggy shorts are now only loose.

Los Angeles-based Chip and Pepper Foster showed great multicolored striped denim shorts from their Brand F collection. TV star and Brand F financial backer Kelsey Grammer modeled for the design twosome, who look like a cross between the rock duo Nelson and the "Full House" twins.

Jeans fit again, some even fit tight. Banded-collar shirts were quite popular, and where there's no collar, there's no tie. Oversize sweaters and T-shirts replaced flannel shirts.

The mismatched vest, often in a heavy knit, or nubby woven fabric appeared to be a must-have of the season. Another was the Birkenstock sandal; the ugly, flat slabs with two heavy straps were worn with suits and shorts.

In the myriad events off the runway:

* Tom Julian, fashion director of the Fashion Assn., whipped himself into an excited froth as he talked about single-breasted three-button jackets replacing double-breasted varieties. (Menswear takes baby steps.)

* A Haggar rep took the microphone to do an infomercial about his firm's wrinkle-free pants.

* Julian introduced an outfit of khaki pants, sport jacket, shirt and tie as the perfect option for dressed-down Fridays. It seems retailers are ready to pounce on the trend toward relaxed corporate dress codes as a whole new category of dressing. As if the sweaters and slacks already in men's closets won't do.

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