In Culver City, it's sex, gloves and rock 'n' roll

Times Staff Writer

The girl wearing the "love me" shirt and nothing more had a mildly embarrassing problem: The designers had given no thought to an undergarment, leaving her bottomless with 10 minutes to show time.

The consensus, however, was that this was no real crisis. "Do you really need bottoms?" asked the show manager. "Just don't lift your arms up."

Graffiti artist-turned-clothing designer Louis Carreon and his partner, Brandon Perrin (known collectively as Kloz Horse), hardly took notice. And how could they? The mood backstage felt like someone's late-night house party in the moments before the cops arrive. Hollywood refugees like Taryn Manning, Edward Furlong, Brendan Davis (of the billionaire Davises) and Rod Stewart's daughter Kimberly wore spiked hair and practiced snarls, spray-painted stencils of handguns and phrases like "Handle Your Scandal." The accessories were 40-ounce bottles of Olde English and cigarettes, a stream of expletives and more eyeliner than a Duran Duran show.

"This is nothing compared to what it has been," said Peter Sanders, a member of the Dolce Films crew, which was recording all this feigned debauchery for posterity. Just then, someone ordered the models to cap the beer bottles and get in line.

This is what Thursday, the last day of fashion week, looked like at the cavernous converted warehouse in Culver City known as Smashbox Studios, the raucous cousin to the Mercedes-Benz Shows LA across town. Then again, it also looked like this: At the Imitation of Christ show, the crowd sat reverently around a warmly lighted maypole, festooned with pastel ribbons and fresh daisies. Grass blanketed the floor and a barefoot flutist played in one corner. Mimi Rogers sat next to a young blond actress desperate for more meaty roles. "I passed on this silly, low-budget horror movie," the actress told her. "And my agent thinks this is important."

"That's just ridiculous," said Rogers, agreeing then and there to find her a new agent.

Much polite conversation later, a barefoot guitarist arrived and settled under the ribbons. As he played, the models strolled out, many of them bearing an uncanny resemblance to Kirsten Dunst. They wore creamy silk dresses in pastels and some carried live doves that had been bound to their fingers with fishing line. Designer Tara Subkoff would later call the scene "my Topanga Canyon fantasy."

Keeping pace with the rest of the evening, swimsuit designer Susan Holmes' show started 90 minutes late. But all was forgiven when her husband Duff McKagan's band Velvet Revolver (essentially Guns N' Roses without Axl Rose) launched into a two-song set. Singer Scott Weiland, out on bail after a DUI-related arrest on Monday, writhed on the runway in his houndstooth suit. "Thank God for music," he said between songs, "because it seems to be the only thing that keeps you from public ... whatever."

Eventually the bikini-clad models took the runway, invoking the spirit of David Lee Roth circa 1986. They carried parasols and wore big hats, glittering masks and rhinestone-studded rock shirts. The grand finale prompted a standing ovation: a suit made entirely of rhinestones and guitar picks. "That's the whole premise of my line," Holmes said backstage. "I wanted to exude that raw energy when you hear a killer rock band. In one of my bikinis."

Then she was swarmed by photographers who wanted another shot of her kissing McKagan. Near the exit one of the show's models was saying, "I know I'm good, I just need to make some money." And outside this circle one observer summed up the scene for another: "It's like performance art."

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