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L.A. Fashion Week: spring 2010 collections

October 25, 2009|Melissa Magsaysay

With a schedule that has stretched into an entire month of presentations, parties and runway shows, the spring 2010 collections now being shown in Los Angeles were bound to run the gamut.

For this season, designers have been inspired by influences as dissimilar as the hardware store and Michelle Obama -- proving that although this town is known for cornering the contemporary market, the current climate is ruled by high concepts, Hollywood glamour and a love for leather.

L.A. transplant Rick Owens gave legitimacy to the L.A. fashion scene when he moved his business to Paris and began showing there six years ago. And for several years now, we've seen Owens' dark Gothic look spawn a generation of like-minded local designers such as Rodarte, Raquel Allegra and Grai.

This year, Skin Graft continued the tradition. Designers Katie Kay and Jonny Cota sent out a parade of fitted and detailed leather jackets, vests and body-conscious clothing in their Fashion Week show. The majority of the looks were topped off with an aviator's cap reminiscent of Amelia Earhart, and many pieces had a layered cap-sleeve detail that echoed the collar on a bomber jacket.

"We were really inspired by strong women like Amelia Earhart and Joan of Arc," Kay said. "There is sexiness in strength."

Their piece de resistance was a black leather "bridal gown" with a studded leather corset, long layered skirt that pooled into a train and feathered headband jutting from the model's forehead. It was dramatic, a bit macabre, but like their sharp, second-skin leather jackets, the gown exhibited a lot of workmanship and attention to detail.

On the other end of the L.A. style spectrum, Kevan Hall and Louis Verdad stuck to the vintage-inspired glamour they do best, creating polished, elegant and highly wearable pieces that are no doubt a push toward commercial success rather than a high art statement. Hall's show at the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot had a set of grand steps as a backdrop, making every model look as though she were descending the steps at the Palais des Festivals at Cannes.

He specifically channeled the 1960s, with models wearing voluminous bouffants and "Mad Men"-esque silhouettes. The solid-color pieces were breathtaking. Every color was the most brilliant version of itself. Crimson reds, vivid corals and even a concrete gray were so vivid and rich you didn't want to turn your head until the look was entirely out of sight.

His gowns were part Grace Kelly, part Michelle Obama, with strong, structured bodices and delicate jeweled details at the waist and occasionally as a brooch at the neckline.

Verdad cited Obama as his muse and translated the idea quite literally. As the show started, a video montage of Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Janet Jackson, Grace Jones and Maya Angelou was projected on the wall, and every model cast to wear the all-ivory collection was black.

Cream jumpsuits, shift dresses and trousers were accented with pops of gold and the occasional splash of navy, infusing a nautical aesthetic into the line. Verdad did a few jodhpur-style pants and a pair of shorts that bubbled around the thigh. Silhouettes were clean and details were not overdone or heavy-handed. His use of cream and ivory looked striking against the models' dark skin and for Verdad seemed to signify a fresh start in his design career.

Somewhere between high art and the hardware store, the winners of the Fashion Angel Emerging Designers award, Jacquetta O'Dell and Krysta Henry of Krys-N-Jack, showed a collection made from leather and wood. (Think wood-paneled skirts with the door numbers still on them, hammered metal corsets and wood neckties and necklaces. Wood collars and flower-shaped brooches were more wearable in an arts-and-crafts kind of way.)

The two designers are fascinated by building and have a background in interior design, carpentry and manufacturing -- in fact, they met while working in a drapery factory in Oklahoma. They cite Hussein Chalayan as an inspiration, and their strong point of view and interest in working with alternative materials have them on the right track to carving out a nice little niche in the L.A. fashion scene.

This L.A. Fashion Week may be logistically challenged and the events incongruous, but it's like driving from one end of the city to the other: Every neighborhood has something different and sometimes pleasantly surprising to offer. You just never know what you're going to get, and maybe that's part of the appeal.


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