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FASHION / INSIDE OUT

Playboy's Bunnies Hopping for Makeover

August 04, 1994|DEBRA GENDEL | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

These days drag queens are pretty much the only ones willing--no, thrilled--to wear the classic Playboy bunny costume and act like they mean it. So party girl Susanne Bartsch, famous for masterminding AIDS benefits in New York and Paris, has signed up a bevy of high-profile style purveyors to overhaul Playboy's outdated icon. The results will be unveiled at "The Hoppening," a $250-a-ticket benefit Sept. 17 at the Playboy Mansion.

"Richard Tyler? Yes, I spoke to Richard. Yes, he's going to do it," said Bartsch, who moved among the crowd at Tuesday night's kick-off party on the lawn of the Chateau Marmont hotel, exhorting people to sell $975 ads in the program for "The Hoppening." Dressed in a gold-sequined cowboy hat, sheer gold-mesh halter top and matching pants, she easily out-dragged the handful of assembled drag queens--especially in the cleavage department. But like any good post-feminist entrepreneur, she stuck to business.

"We're trying to raise money to fight a disease. Why do people get so caught up in these political things?" she huffed in response to suggestions that the L.A. event would be dominated by New York design types. (Anna Sui, Todd Oldham, Azzedine Alaia, Betsey Johnson, Laura Whitcomb and the artist formerly known as Prince have agreed to reshape the most famous of bunnies.)

"Chrome Hearts is from L.A., Isabel Toledo, LA Eyeworks, Abel Villarreal--they're all from here. But what difference does it make?"

In fact, L.A. met New York in the evening's most exquisite attire, a custom leather costume Villarreal designed for New York actor/performance artist Joey Arias. Originally made for Arias' role as Cirque du Soleil ringmaster, the costume was bunny-ized with an enormous black marabou tail and rather devilish leather ears. We wonder what Hef would have said?

Tickets for "The Hoppening," which benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, can be purchased by calling (310) 652-6601.

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Summer Reading: Those who can't wait for Robert Altman's "Pret-a-Porter" for their fix of fashion dish can turn to Olivia Goldsmith's novel of love, loss, neurosis and name-dropping, "Fashionably Late" (HarperCollins, 1994). It's about a tall, slightly heavy, potato-faced designer who soars to the top of the fashion world only to see all that she's struggled for ruined by her handsome, artist husband/business partner. Sound like anyone we know -- or wear?

"Lots of people have said it's Donna Karan, but I wrote this before her troubles began," said Goldsmith, who trolled Seventh Avenue for such nuggets of verisimilitude as one high-profile designer's habit of simultaneously moving her bowels and dictating letters. Ultimately, the writer's sympathies lie with the beleaguered consumer.

"I didn't want to write an anti-fashion book, but I think there's something sick about overshopping. Every woman I talked to, from fashion junkies to women who don't care, felt they didn't have the right clothes. Nobody has the right stuff." As for Goldsmith, "nobody cares what a writer wears," she said. "But mostly I look like a bad version of a Dana Buchman ad."

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True Colors: "I am not a model. I have not been a model since 1989. I am a businesswoman." And Iman can prove it. This week she hit local JCPenney stores to introduce her eponymous line of cosmetics and skin-care products for women of color. A line she created, for a company s he co-founded, in packaging she designed.

Frustrated by having to mix and match makeup to attain perfection, Iman decided to help those of us without access to professional help. The resulting collection is 132 items strong, with name groupings that range from back-to-nature (Sand, Clay or Earth) to positively scrumptious (Warm Spices, Roasted Nuts).

A sometime actress, Iman will appear in the film version of Anne Rice's S&M novel, "Exit to Eden," due out in October, and although she's been active in the film industry, "I don't want to sit by the pool and wait. I want control over my life. I have longevity in mind." To that end, she plans to introduce hair and fragrance products next year. Plus she's taking Spanish lessons to help her tap into the South American market. And as Iman notes, in the year 2050, people of color will represent more than 50% of U.S. residents. If things go as planned, the Under Cover Agent Oil Control Lotion could well ensure her complete global domination. Guess she really does mean business.

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