Two L.A. designers are inspired by their city

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Designers Emily Jerome, of the contemporary women’s line Jerome, and Alex Israel, creator of Freeway eyewear, showed their fall 2011 collections to a crowd of fashion-savvy socials at the Soho House in West Hollywood on Monday night.

Though the designers produce two very different kinds of collections -- Jerome a 40-piece line of bold, ethnic printed separates and wonderfully shlubby, cozy knits, and Israel eight styles of unisex sunglasses that each retail for $100 -- their inspiration for the season stems from the same place: their love affair with and personal interpretations of Los Angeles.


Jerome’s fall collection (her second thus far) is like looking inside the luggage of a chic young traveler who just packs once for back-and-forth trips from L.A. to New York and no wonder -- she is a recent N.Y. transplant who was bicoastal for months but has finally committed to a hippie-esque home base in Laurel Canyon.

There are lightweight, brightly colored dresses (with tribal-looking prints hand-drawn by Jerome), ‘60s inspired embroidered velvet jackets and skirts, and heavier knits in black-and-white stripes as well as solid cable knit cardigans. Throw in a pair of jeans and you’ve got a versatile N.Y.-to-L.A. wardrobe in one line. But the practical side of both coasts wasn’t where Jerome stopped taking influence. The line also blends the hard and soft elements typically associated with N.Y. (hard) and L.A. (soft). ‘I wanted to blend the harder edge of N.Y. with the hippie revival and appeal of the American West that happens in L.A.,’ she said. With jet-setter pals such as Nathalie Love and Gia Coppola wearing her latest pieces to the presentation, it looks like she’s accomplished just that.

Yale- and USC-trained artist Israel draws on a different aspect of L.A. to create his line of sunglasses. He’s translated his sculpting background and love for his hometown of Los Angeles into glasses that ‘frame’ the face like the freeways of L.A. ‘frame’ the city.

‘I grew up in Westwood near the 405,’ he said. ‘It’s a love thing for L.A., a love of driving and the lines that draw the map of city. Sunglasses also represent the mask of Hollywood.’

Quite appropriately, Israel’s styles are named for the city’s arterial roadways. There is the 405, a large circular pair that has a slight Willy Wonka appeal and, according to the designer, were inspired by a similar style worn by Kurt Cobain. The 110 has a thin, rounded-square frame that like every other style in the line comes in a variety of colors and various shades of lenses.

In addition to his artwork and sunglasses line, Israel’s next project is a collaboration on a pair of sunglasses with artist John Baldessari, with whom he interned while in school.

When asked what he’ll call his glasses if he runs out of freeways, Israel replied, ‘We won’t run out of freeways.’ I have feeling he’s right.

Freeway Eyewear is sold at Barneys and Maxfield, Jerome is sold at Confederacy and Intermix.

-- Melissa Magsaysay

Upper photos: Alex Israel and actress Abigail Spencer (left), and Gia Coppola and Emily Jerome. Credit: Donato Sardella

Lower photo: A display of Freeway eyewear at the Soho House. Credit: Donato Sardella