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A closer look at the designers and fashion on the runways during L.A.'s fashion weeks

Paris Fashion Week was still in full swing when Los Angeles’ many and varied versions kicked off with LA Fashion Week’s four-day run at the Hollywood Athletic Club that began Sept. 29. That was followed in short order by Art Hearts Fashion’s four-day slate at the Beverly Hilton (Oct. 9-12) and Style Fashion Week’s sophomore outing at the Pacific Design Center (Oct. 13-Sunday).

Highlights from some of those events are included below, but this roundup is by no means comprehensive. That’s partly because Los Angeles Fashion Week(s) is far from over, with Fashion Week Los Angeles’ two-day stand (Monday and Tuesday) and Fashion Business International’s “All Aboard!” fundraiser at Union Station (Tuesday) yet to unspool.

LA Fashion Week

A third season meant a third venue for the peripatetic LAFW, which moved just down Sunset Boulevard from last season’s Columbia Square space to the Hollywood Athletic Club. Here, the big take-away was less about tangible on-runway trends and more about acknowledging the industry’s impact on the world around it, with eco-friendlier fashion ruling the runway as multiple designers showcased collections that featured interesting, on-trend and, perhaps most important, wearable pieces that espoused the eco-chic philosophy. Multiple designers stated that their commitment to environmentally conscious clothing lines were influenced by the 2015 documentary “The True Cost” by Andrew Morgan. This film is a feature-length documentary that explores the effect of the fashion industry on people and the planet. Two labels in particular, Irishlatina and Rinda Salmun, presented strong collections that left an impression because of their environmental/eco-conscious approach.

The Waste Not collection by Irishlatina was made entirely of secondhand garments. Label founder Rebecca Rivera notes that the fashion industry is the second-biggest polluter in the world and that only 10% of donated clothes end up in a new home. Waste Not is her response; a high-style-meets-the-street mix of hip-hop, skate and street culture. Her show was a combination of runway and presentation with models casually strolling around a runway that had been turned into a cartoon-like schoolyard. The runway was adorned with rainbow camouflage-painted towers, chain-link fences, picket fences and abstract structures. All the models wore knee-high gym socks, sneakers, chokers and outfits made from old sports jerseys and T-shirts. The whole collection had an urban ’90s vibe that was bold and playful. The playfulness was accentuated through the interesting schoolyard props and juxtaposition of models on the runway but not doing a proper runway walk. They disrupted the order that usually takes place on the runway and opted for a casual chaos that made the clothes seem even more edgy by breaking the traditional rules.

Rinda Salmun is a women’s fashion ready-to-wear label based in Jakarta, Indonesia. This brother-and-sister design team first came onto the fashion scene in 2010, with a strong focus on non-toxic and eco-friendly materials sourced locally from their home in West Java, Indonesia.

The spring/summer 2017 collection titled Wearable Art contained garments with structural, almost sculptural silhouettes, strong, bold lines and colorful mixed panels of fabrics/patterns. After the show, we spoke with the design duo, who explained that their main objective was to literally create “wearable art,” using clothing as the medium for experimentation and playing with different art forms in a way that unites fine art and fashion.

As a spectator, you could easily understand their creative vision and the emphasis on fine arts within their collection because even the background that was projected onto a screen during the runway show was essentially geometric sketches from their mood board set in motion. Overall, this LAFW trend take-away will allow consumers to indulge — but still breathe easy — when thinking about  the true cost of fashion.

While there were plenty of eco-concerned collections at LAFW, other collections stuck to modern explorations of femininity through color and storytelling. Designer Cindy Wei Zhang, for example, mixed media and fashion to tell part of her journey as well as that of an ancient monk. Zhang, who started her label in 2013, worked with fabrics such as organza, chiffon and satin to create a striking, feminine collection of mostly ivory and shades of blue dresses and pencil skirts (many displaying prints and artwork) and peplum tops. (The designer said she collaborated with a Chinese artist on aspects of the collection.)

In her research, Zhang also became fascinated with the ancient Buddhist monk and translator Xuanzang, whose challenging quest from Asia to India is said to be the inspiration for the novel “Journey to the West.” As a bonus, the show concluded with a short film showing Zheng and her team shooting the collection’s look book in the Gobi desert. It all seemed fitting of the times, capturing a female protagonist on a desert pilgrimage while showing the softer aspects of Zheng’s collection juxtaposed with the tough realities of the desert.

After her show, Zheng said she felt Xuanzang’s journey also reflected the struggles of her career in China’s competitive fashion industry. “I tried to do something special and different from other people,” Zhang said.

Designer Nonita Respati, founder of the Indonesian label Purana started in 2008, showed a dazzling and über-colorful display of batik and tie-dyed designs in sherbet hues. The shirtdresses, maxi dresses, cheery tops and pants were loose-fitting or had ruched hemlines. The drapey and layered looks were intriguing to watch on the runway, but it ultimately was Respati’s heavy use color and more color — and we’re talking about tangy oranges, bright pinks and touches of vibrant greens — and varied prints that grabbed us.

One standout look in particular, a belted, floor-length, orange-and-green, robe-style dress, seemed ideal for our current loungewear-as-daytime mood. And though batik designs are worn for weddings, funerals, graduations and other occasions, the collection Respati showed only made us long for the promises of a colorful spring.

Art Hearts Fashion

Art Hearts Fashion, which had held its local shows at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood for the last several seasons (it stages twice-yearly events in a handful of cities including New York and Miami), headed for the hills — Beverly Hills, that is — presenting four days of spring/summer 2017 runway shows at the Beverly Hilton. L.A.-based brand Hale Bob actually went further afield — to the Greek island of Mykonos to be precise — for a 20-piece cruise/spring 2017 runway collection that came down the catwalk Oct. 10.

Daniel Bohbot, the brand’s owner and founder, said he had been inspired by Mediterranean influences and the light, carefree lifestyle of the Greek isles. These influences could be seen in a color palette rooted in blue and white (inspired by the iconic white walls and blue roofs of the buildings there) and mosaic tile prints on a range of long, breezy dresses, beach-appropriate caftans, shoulder-baring tunics and short rompers.

Another L.A.-based label hitting the runway that night was Siwy Denim, which presented its spring/summer 2017 offering in what owner Kris Park told us was just the second runway show in the 11-year-old brand’s history. The vibe was too cool for school, thanks to a range of varsity jackets and collegiate sweaters festooned with patches, embroidered appliqués and classic school pins. There was a vintage feel to the collection, thanks in part to white and red ringer T-shirts with faded screen prints straight out of the ’70s (one bore the photo and name of St. Louis Cardinal Lou Brock along with his nickname, “The Base Burglar”; another referenced fellow Cardinal Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky).

Staying true to the brand’s denim roots, the aforementioned pieces were mixed in with faded denim work shirts, second-skin skinny jeans (some with tuxedo-like side stripes, others with zippers up the front of each leg), and an assortment of cutoff jean shorts with frayed hems that ranged from barely below the zipper pull to just above the knee.

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