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Rising Stars of Latino Fashion Show Off Their Originality


Seventeen designers. Three hundred-fifty guests. And, damas y caballeros, mucho Latino flair.

That was the scene at the black-tie "Hispanic Designers" gala that featured the creations of Latino designers, most from the Los Angeles area.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Hispanic Designers Inc., the Thursday show at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel was the second stop of a three-city tour that began in Washington last month and moves on to Miami in November. In each city, local designers--many of them rising fashion stars--join others from across the country to showcase their unique runway style and, often, their own Latino influence on clothing design.

The Los Angeles event proved to be a showstopper, with designers presenting an eclectic mix of looks from sleek and sexy gowns to cowboy chic to rock 'n' roll glam.

The event not only raised an awareness about Latino talent, but also $50,000--enough for about 20 scholarships for design students at California schools such as the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and the Otis College of Art & Design, said Penny Harrison, who founded Hispanic Designers Inc. in 1985 to highlight the achievements of Latino designers as well as nurture fledgling--and future--talent. A special tribute was paid to longtime designer Luis Estevez and the late Bill Travilla, a film costumer.

Creativity bounded onto the catwalk with collections from Los Angeles' David Cardona, Estevan Ramos, Henry Duarte, Elizabeth Galindo, David Rodriguez, and the husband-and-wife teams of Tarina Tarantino and Alfonso Campos, and Jody and David Rodriguez of New York. Other designers included several from New York: Eddie Rodriguez for Wilke-Rodriguez, Kathi Castro, Stephanie Villareal, Angel Sanchez and Manolo.

Also participating was Manuel Cuevas, a familiar name to Angelenos. Cuevas, known as the clothier of cowboy cool, launched his career 45 years ago when he went to work for Nudie, the legendary Hollywood rodeo tailor who encouraged Cuevas to create costumes and images for celebrities. Cuevas moved to Nashville 10 years ago to open his own boutique and cater to country and western stars with his one-of-a-kind pieces.

In addition to Cuevas' spectacular Wild West looks, other standouts were Ramos' Japanese- and Mexican-inspired dresses and sexy tops, a line he has dubbed "Japixan." Embossed leathers, a jumpsuit with slashed sleeves, optical prints on denim and a series of gold skirts, tops and jeans were crowd favorites. David Rodriguez of Indio presented a beautiful black-and-white lace collection of sleeveless sheaths and lightweight leather dresses.

Galindo sent out luscious velvet green and lavender evening gowns that will soon be seen in the movie "Charlie's Angels." Sanchez presented splendid crystal-embellished and soft-hued rainbow-colored dresses. Duarte's creations hit the stage with a Keith Richards look of body-hugging denim trousers, velvet pants and leather and suede coats.

Hat and accessory designers Jody and David Rodriguez showed hip hats in colors from orange to pink to purple, but their cowboy hats were definitely a sophisticated combination of strong color with glitz.

When the show ended with Cardona's stunning line of Victorian-inspired evening wear that mixed supple leathers with a variety of other fabrics, the fashion-adoring crowd rose to their feet.

A fitting finale for a noche de triunfos.

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