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L.A. Fashion Week

Jared Gold is the ringmaster of the fashion spectacle. What will he do? Who knows -- but he needs a bunch of ballerinas.

March 09, 2008|Emili Vesilind | Times Staff Writer

Jared GOLD -- a designer from out of town who all but specializes in creating spectacles -- might just steal the show this Fashion Week.

The Salt Lake City designer is staging a free, open-to-the-public runway show Friday inside downtown's majestic Union Station. The venue will seat up to 1,500 revelers, and if past Gold extravaganzas are any guide, things are going to get freaky.

The designer is known for celebrating the macabre -- his collections have been inspired by "hexed children" and "deep country sorcery." Not every look is wearable (a multicolored corset bustier really only works on a beer wench), and his catwalk styling is often overwrought (think busy metallic military jacket on a model with geisha lipstick and marcel-waved hair).

But no one can accuse Gold of being boring.

He's played a flaming xylophone on the runway, filled a venue with silver balloons, festooned models with live, bejeweled cockroaches, and had a girl tote a pig's hoof down the catwalk. When he was featured in Gen Art's 2003 Fresh Faces showcase, he sent out a nude model painted to look like she'd been burned at the stake (her torso was actually "smoking.")

This time out, prima ballerinas from Salt Lake City's Ballet West company will open the show with a performance, former XXX film star Traci Lords and '90s male supermodel Tony Ward will walk the runway, and the goth-rockabilly band Miss Derringer will perform at the after-party at the train station.

On the runway, Gold will showcase his largest collection ever. Fifty-five women's looks and six men's ensembles will strut down a catwalk slicing through the train station's grand lobby. The collection, which Gold calls Czarina, was inspired by the fabled Russian Bolshoi Ballet company and "how dancers become animals" on stage. Expect lots of airy fabrics in cream-puff colors -- a departure from his usual Tim Burton-esque trip.

Beyond making subversive fashion, Gold has always worked to make fashion more egalitarian. A born outsider (within the fashion world and beyond), he's no doubt sensitive to the industry's inherent snobbery. His shows are always open to the public, and -- in the name of serving up the freshest looks for his customers -- he's narrowed the runway-to-store lag time to zilch: Most pieces he shows are available for purchase the next day.

That he's showing at L.A.'s historic train station is no accident (the option of showing at the Smashbox Studios tents "is all wrong," he said). Amtrak is the event's key sponsor and is even carting Gold and his merry band of employees to L.A. Accommodations for his staff are first class and free. How did he swing such a majorly cool sponsor? He called them up. "My whole life is about figuring out the biggest, craziest thing you can do," he said, "and then just doing it."

The runway looks will all be from the Jared Gold collection, though the designer's bread and butter for the last eight years has been his lower-priced street wear line, Black Chandelier. Gold has sold to Barneys New York and others in the past but became disillusioned by the process of creating cohesive collections, only to have retailers cherry-pick the safest looks for their stores. "They were scared the edgier stuff wouldn't sell," said Gold, who now sells both lines exclusively at his four boutiques in downtown Salt Lake City and through his website. "Now I just make whatever I want, and the stuff that Barneys wasn't going to take a risk on are our hottest sellers."

Gold -- who studied at Otis College of Art and Design and lived in L.A. for 10 years until 2004, when an investor brought him to Salt Lake City -- will further chip away at the traditional retail model by erecting a pop-up store right beside the runway, where people can buy styles from both collections, including looks they've seen strut by moments before. With the middleman cut out of the equation, his prices are a more affordable $65 to $250.

"It's runway-to-reality," he said. "There's always tons of press at shows . . . but they're not really buying it. My customer is that hot waitress who saves her money for a jacket. I want her to be there."

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emili.vesilind@latimes.com

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Tickets for Jared Gold's runway show at Union Station are available free on his website, blackchandelier.com; simply print them out and present them at the door March 14. Door opens at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m.

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