Kevan Hall, a mainstay of the biannual fashion week that until October had been held at Smashbox Studios, showed his fall collection at a charity event. A medley of music from James Bond films was a clue that Hall was inspired by spy heroines.
In keeping with fall's tough vibe, he focused on sexy tailoring and body-conscious silhouettes -- a black wool sheath with parallel zippers up the sides, a body-hugging black rayon jersey dress with geometric-shaped leather embroidery on the bodice, a reversible houndstooth coat. His chocolate wool wrap top with fox sleeves was a great piece, considering fall's emphasis on shoulder details, especially paired with a sequined skirt in a scribble pattern that was low-key enough for daytime wear. For evening, a pink and chocolate brown degrade silk chiffon gown with a beaded collar was fresh and pretty.
The runway at Downtown L.A. Fashion Week at the Geffen Contemporary that same evening showcased vintage treasures from Cameron Silver's Decades store -- a dazzling ruby red sequin 1960s Norman Norell cocktail dress, a one-shouldered fringed fuchsia 1970s YSL couture gown and a 1980s purple Valentino "harem gown" that looked like something Jeannie would wear, only much more chic.
At first it seemed strange for vintage to be at a fashion week event, which is supposed to be all about the new. But after all, vintage is one of the pillars of L.A. style. The red carpet is not only a fashion show, it's also a fashion history lesson thanks to Silver and others like him who have taught stars that the secret to looking truly chic and unique is to wear something that nobody else could possibly have.
Upstairs at the same venue, just before the vintage runway show, designer Louis Verdad made his grand return to the city's fashion scene. You'll remember that in 2003, Verdad was poised to be L.A.'s next great designer. Madonna was enamored with his 1940s-era, Latin-tinged old Hollywood glamour, and many other celebs were too. His runway shows were the highlight of L.A. fashion weeks -- big, theatrical (sometimes too theatrical) productions, and he was on his way. But then came a series of poor business decisions and, in 2007, bankruptcy.
Now, he's hoping for someone to bankroll his comeback. And judging from the small collection he showed Thursday, he could well find that someone. His new collection is called Louver (after LOUis VERdad, get it?)
"I have joint custody of my name. I'm not allowed to put it on the labels," he said. "I have no money. I just went and bought four bolts of black fabric. Four! I made 15 pieces. And that cocoon coat, I was still sewing the hem at 4 p.m. this afternoon."
It was worth it. The cocoon coat was fantastic-looking, nicely shaped with three-quarter sleeves and a pleated collar laced with a silver chain. I also loved the black dress with puffed sleeves, cinched with a black lace obi, and the flippy, high-waist skirt worn with a dove gray, double-collar button-down shirt with contouring black insets. He even managed to make silver studs look elegant, draped across the front of a black fishtail-hem gown like a beauty queen's sash.
Worth noting were the efforts of upstart CoLA, a group that came out of nowhere just two weeks before fashion week and ended up being a one-stop showcase for street style -- both on and off the runway. Lines on the catwalk included Joyrich, with a nod to 1990s street culture (including acid-washed jeans), and Brian Lichtenberg, whose tall models strode the runway in shaggy fur footwear and horned headdresses, paired with skintight, body-baring wrappings.
Between shows, design students, trend-chasers and fashion followers of every stripe made the lounge area their own runway: handmade white bandleader jackets paired with mini skirts, feathered mullet hair clips, spiky metal headdresses and armor-plate shin guards.
It wasn't too hard to imagine that somewhere in that mix were some of the city's as yet undiscovered designers, store owners and style incubators. Tastemakers who, like Hall, Silver and Verdad, will eventually personify L.A. fashion.
Which, in the end, makes the seasonal fashion week more than an exercise in futility.
Staff writer Adam Tschorn contributed to this report.