Perhaps it's a harbinger of fashion weeks to come: Designer Jared Gold closed Los Angeles Fashion Week last weekend by bucking the system and taking his runway collection straight to the people. An astounding 1,500 folks downloaded free tickets via Gold's website and showed up at Union Station in downtown L.A. The clothes could be purchased minutes after they were shown. And true to the designer's belief in the democratization of fashion, the last place you wanted to be was in a front row seat.
The rambling runway, erected in a lofty wing of the train station, was at least 6 feet high -- forcing "Project Runway" alums Kit Pistol and Sweet P to crane their necks to catch the catwalk antics. Ex-porn queen Traci Lords, Internet celebrities such as Dame Darcy and Clint Catalyst, and "America's Next Top Model" wannabes were outfitted in fantastic, powdered Marie Antoinette wigs and hairpieces, punked-out with bright blue, pink, yellow and green hair spray and feathers. Faces were painted white and given smudged geisha-style burgundy lips. There were structured coats and jackets with voluminous sleeves, striped jersey shawls and tops and skirts and dresses printed with cartoon giraffes and other nursery room motifs.
Lords, who flew in from the set of a movie (not that kind!) in Pennsylvania, hammed it up for the cameras in a strapless printed dress with metallic gold bandeau top; while former male supermodel Tony Ward affected a modern-day Popeye in a striped sailor shirt and suspenders and navy sailor pants cut off just below the knee.
After the show, revelers pushed and pulled their way into the incredibly crowded makeshift boutique that was erected to sell looks hot off the runway, while L.A. band Miss Derringer played a set of its surf-punk tunes.
It was the kind of offbeat event that's come to characterize Fashion Week here, where the shows are more about "fashiontainment" than the Seventh Avenue hierarchy of buyers and editors and the front rows are a playground for the children of celebrities and the rich and not so famous.
Compared with other seasons, this L.A. Fashion Week schedule was awfully thin, without the up-and-coming design talent that is making an impression with buyers and editors on the international fashion stage. Instead, it was a seemingly uncurated lineup of labels and a lot of over- or under-designed clothes.
Contemporary lines such as Jenny Han, Orthodox and Whitley Kros showed the kind of cropped motorcycle jackets and colorful skinny jeans that show goers were already wearing. Other designers (Maggie Barry for Xubaz and Julia Clancey) seemed more interested in making costumes than clothes.
On the street wear circuit, Elmer Ave's deconstructed, hand-painted vests and jackets didn't break any new ground for the rocker-skate-design collective, and the presentation was slow and lumbering. Monarchy Collection's mix of rigid denim, chunky knits and textural scarves was helped by savvy styling (oversized wool earmuffs and chic winter headgear looked rich and aspirational).
But if any strong statement came out of the week, it was nearly anti-fashion. Between Ashley Paige's parade of "couture" bathing suits and a runway show/concert featuring Pussycat Dolls lingerie, the last two attractions at Smashbox Studios had not one stitch of actual clothing. Of course, there was no shortage of bronzed bodies, ruffle-trimmed undies and bras adorned with bows.
Paige showed a 1920s-inspired line of the knit suits she's known for. The pale pink, powder blue and subtle nude swimwear had a "Pretty Baby" feel. There was even delicate beading on the edges of a few tank tops, which made them look more like lingerie than "couture evening bathing suits," as Paige referred to them in the show program. She can call them what she likes -- it still doesn't make itty-bitty swimsuits any more relevant for fall weather.
Dolls creator Robin Antin debuted her lingerie collection, Shhh (isn't that really just a demure way of telling someone to shut up?). The line definitely delivered demure -- and sexy. Models strutted down the runway wearing the retro lingerie, and then the Pussycat Dolls performed four of their hit songs. The event was more concert than fashion show, unless you count the Dolls' normal outfits of hot pants, corsets or bras, so in essence they were multi-tasking -- singing while doing some informal modeling, keeping the fashion aspect in check.
Cute anchor appliques, button details and sheer lace hearts were all over the lingerie, but really, no one focused on those things. Certainly not the men who made up the most famous front row of the week. Sean Combs, Quincy Jones, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine came out to see the Pussycat Dolls do their thing.
Umpteen pelvic thrusts later, the Pussycat Dolls ended with their most famous song, "Don't Cha," putting the official stamp of all things sexy on the evening, but leaving those who don't wear lingerie to work wondering, "So, what's the trend for fall?"
Times staff writer Adam Tschorn contributed to this report.