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THE RUNWAYS: LOS ANGELES

L.A. Fashion Week spools out over month of October

The new Rock Fashion Week L.A. was a small show, while Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Fashion showcase gave a taste of upcoming designers, such as MG Black Label, Valerj Pobega and Rory Beca.

November 08, 2009|Adam Tschorn

During Los Angeles Fashion Week -- which lasted through much of October -- the new Rock Fashion Week L.A. was supposed to be the game-changer, stepping into the void left when the wheels fell off Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios a year ago. Produced by New York City-based Rock Media and Entertainment, which stages twice-yearly fashion week events there and in Miami, the Los Angeles installment was envisioned as a fashion and music extravaganza playing out over four days at the historic Paramount Studios and culminating in a huge Halloween party on the studio lot.

But, after a venue change and shrunken schedule, Rock Media's sole contribution to the season turned out to be a single night of four runway shows Oct. 30, one of which was a touring, multi-designer Pink Dress Collection to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Despite the downsized debut, Rock Fashion Week L.A's co-owner Nicole Purcell considered it successful. "It was smaller because we made it smaller. After discussing it with the designers, we ultimately decided not to conflict with Halloween," she said. "But I'm happy with the result. I think we gave L.A. a taste of what we do, and it's only going to get bigger and stronger each season."

The only other night of Rock Fashion Week L.A. was a perennial, the annual Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Fashion showcase, which kicked off the two nights of the "week." Although Gen Art merged with Rock Media and Entertainment in September, the event unfolded much as it always has, giving exposure to up-and-coming and smaller local designers and labels that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. This time out, the tents atop the Petersen Automotive Museum parking structure included the spring 2010 runway collections of local labels Leyendecker, Seneca Rising, MG Black Label, Valerj Pobega and Rory Beca.

Though it was a good opportunity to get acquainted with MG Black Label -- a new men's diffusion line that Morphine Generation's Erik Hart launched earlier this year -- and revisit Rory Beca's flirty florals, pops of pink and darling mini dresses, the most memorable of the collections belonged to designer Valerj Pobega, with her "Bondage collection."

Pobega added a layer of Japanese bondage influence to her 1920s-meets-punk aesthetic, with deconstructed kimono dresses, silk charmeuse cocoon coats and irregular circle skirts, hand-dyed, stained and screen-printed to look rust-flecked, rope-wrapped and ink-dripped.

Throw in the twisted-cord bondage masks and definitely not-safe-for-work dangling rope accents, and the result was as elegant as it was unsettling, and the impact lingered long after the lights came down.

The second and final evening of Rock Fashion Week L.A. included labels Tristan and Trista, Boy Meets Girl, the aforementioned Pink Dress Collection and a grand finale to end all grand finales -- a parade of panties, bras and assorted intimate wear staged by Los Angeles-based Biatta Intimates, which came across like a trying-too-hard, low-rent, angel-wingless version of a Victoria's Secret fashion show.

While the racy, lacy underthings were an undeniable hit with the audience (so much standing ovation for so little fabric!), L.A. Fashion Week hadn't felt so desperate since the season Robin Antin's lingerie-clad Pussycat Dolls prowled the catwalk at Smashbox Studios.

And with that, the lights came down on a 22-day-long Los Angeles Fashion "Week" marathon that had kicked off Oct. 8 with designer Sue Wong's presentation, staged in her Los Feliz home, and included, among other events, Kevan Hall's runway show on the Universal Studios back lot Oct. 17 (sponsored by the Rusnak Auto Group), downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week Oct. 13 to 16, an L.A "Fashion Weekend," a showcase of Filipino designers and artists, an event dedicated specifically to fashion on Broadway (the downtown L.A. thoroughfare, not the Great White Way) and a three-day series of glorified fashion shoots (BOXeight's "Fashion: Refocus" Oct. 23 to 25).

In the end, what might have had the most impact on this (and future) L.A. Fashion Weeks came from the city's coffers. The Department of Cultural Affairs, which annually bestows $10,000 grants in 15 different arts disciplines, included fashion design as a category, giving a boost to L.A's emerging designers. The first recipients were Fernanda Carneiro, Phong Hong and the design duo of Krysta Henry and Jacquetta O'Dell, who staged 10-look runway shows on the opening night of Downtown L.A. Fashion Week.

That goes a long way toward making Los Angeles Fashion Week feel a lot less like a platform for designers with dollars (the way it is in New York, Paris and Milan), and a lot more like an incubator and cultivator of emerging talent -- the template for London Fashion Week, which this year celebrated its 25th anniversary and has been the launchpad for designers such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

Rock Fashion Week L.A and Downtown L.A. Fashion Week have tentative dates for next season, the former shooting for March 4 to 6 ("Right before the Oscars" -- scheduled for March 7 -- Purcell noted) and the latter aiming for March 16 to 18.

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adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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