Over the years, we've noticed that fashion weeks are a lot like high school -- with cliques and hierarchies, where seemingly insignificant things (like where you sit) take on exaggerated importance. Because L.A.'s latest efforts to pull together a cohesive, organized week have turned into a fashion "month," rather than survey the mosaic of events, we're focusing on the star students instead: the assorted designers (established as well as the up-and-comers), retailers, muses and shutterbugs who reflect the true DNA of the City of Angels. Call it the Class of Spring-Summer 2010 -- because that's when you're likely to see the results of their efforts in stores. Meet them on pages P4 and P5.
Prom king and queen
Cameron Silver, 40, isn't just the owner of Decades vintage boutiques in Los Angeles and London, he's a tastemaker, champion of designers -- Juan Carlos Obando is the latest in his sights -- and brand ambassador. When Silver's not roaming the world snapping up vintage finds from auctions and private collections for his A-list clientele, he's often serving as creative consultant for labels (current clients are confidential, but he's worked with Azzaro, Samsonite, Costume National, Pringle and Boucheron).
His taste and influence can be seen across the city, including the cherry-red, early-'80s Claude Montana dress that "Project Runway" host Heidi Klum wore for the show's Season 6 ad campaign and some of the high-profile gowns worn at the LACMA gala celebrating the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.
Liz Goldwyn, 32, is a writer, filmmaker, collector of vintage fashion and jewelry designer (a selection of which can be found at L.A.'s Opening Ceremony) -- a native Angeleno who just so happens to be the granddaughter of famed Hollywood studio head Samuel Goldwyn and counts fashion-world elite as friends and collaborators. A style icon in her own right, she's produced major fashion shows, served as the New York editor of French Vogue, consulted with companies such as Shiseido and helped establish the fashion department at Sotheby's New York. Her first documentary film (and subsequent book), "Pretty Things," focused on the last generation of burlesque queens -- and their clothes.
An indefatigable champion of local designer talent (Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte and Obando among them), Goldwyn recently became the face of the city's fashion scene itself when French department store Le Bon Marche tapped her to guest curate an L.A.-themed exhibition, as well as design its store windows and appear in the ad campaign.
The only things more eye-catching than Tarina Tarantino's whimsical, rhinestone-smattered accessory line are the designer's hot-pink hair and retro-glam style. The former model and makeup artist, 35, has a head-turning look that's become her signature here in L.A. and anywhere she sprinkles her Technicolor creations.
While her first store may have opened in Milan in 2002, Tarantino's enthusiasm for her home base of L.A. is undeniable. The fantasy-infused confections and sparkly eye candy that glisten in her Melrose Avenue shop are a reflection of the Hollywood aesthetic, and celebrities show up to red-carpet events around town wearing her pendants, glittery hair clips and Lucite necklaces. Prices range from $75 to $500.
Local brand Re: Collection manages to succeed where other "green" fashion lines fall short, re-purposing vintage items into a contemporary line so stylish and modern you might have to be told twice before believing it was once a pile of castaway clothing.
The brand is the brainchild of Soex, a German-based company that each year turns 300 million pounds of old clothing into refreshed items for wear in developing countries or sustainable industrial materials such as automotive and residential insulation. Re: Collections' pieces hang alongside designer lines at Ron Herman and Barneys Co-Op. Prices range from $80 to $400.
The line's creative director, P.J. Faulstick, culls materials from 14 warehouses around the world, choosing supplies that are abundant enough to make multiples of each item.
Colombian-born, Los Angeles-based designer Juan Carlos Obando, 32, staged his first show at Los Angeles Fashion Week in 2004, and although he started showing his collection in New York in 2007, that doesn't mean he's in danger of losing his title as L.A.'s darling of design. He still finds favor with the city's tastemakers (see Silver and Goldwyn, above) and the fashion press.
Asked about his overwhelmingly positive profile, Obando credits his low-key, under-the-radar approach. He doesn't send breathless press releases and doesn't overexpose himself or his collection, which is sold only through Barneys New York and L.A.'s Des Kohan boutique (for between $1,500 and $9,000).
But no one should sell Obando short. The designer has amazing technical skills -- processes such as waxing and broiling weathered effects into jackets, and shearing layers of silk panels to a fur-like effect.
Next he'll try to parlay those talents into the beauty arena. Last September he made his first foray with a shampoo line, and he says that he's planning to expand into skin care next year.
Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor remind us of the "cool girl" clique in high school who could wear something one day and have the rest of the student body showing up in it the next. The co-founders and creative directors of Juicy Couture -- friends for 21 years, with a shared penchant for top hats and ball gowns -- turned the velour tracksuit into a casual luxury item. They are almost always seen out as a pair, dressed to the nines in a mix of Chanel, J. Mendel fur and their newest line, Bird by Juicy Couture. Their cascading hair and piles of baubles make them look so similar you'd swear they coordinate before getting dressed.
In addition to the women's contemporary line, the brand includes handbags, shoes, intimates, swimwear, accessories, sunglasses and lines for girls and babies. Bird by Juicy Couture is a stark contrast to their frothy roots and appeals to the customer who lived in her Juicy sweat pants and Ugg boots through college but is now a full-fledged career gal. Selling through department stores and 93 stand-alone retail shops, at prices that run from $98 to $698 for Juicy and an average of $350 for Bird, Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor have gained a global "clique" of women who happily follow their lead.
Joel Knoernschild, the 30-year-old behind the streetwear and accessories KZO label that sells in places such as Ron Herman and Fred Segal Man, is a globe-trotter in the truest sense. His line is manufactured in downtown Los Angeles and Japan, an arrangement that keeps the designer winging it back and forth to Tokyo at least once a month.
The former music video producer also has a knack for flavoring his menswear collection with the fruit of his family tree. He pulls from the Japanese American heritage of his mother's side, the surfwear influences of his father's side (his dad, Joe, helped launch the Hurley action-sports brand) and his California childhood.
Past seasons' inspirations include John Muir, the internment camps at Manzanar (where his grandfather was held during World War II), and for spring-summer 2010, musician Neil Young, who Knoernschild says once lived not far from him in Echo Park. The results manage to be sophisticated streetwear shot through with interesting technical details -- rumpled plaids turn out to be corduroy and a soft shapeless jacket that appears to be made from a woven Native American blanket turns out to be printed French terry cloth. KZO prices run from $110 to $530.
Work well together
Fashion collaborations can often result in one party eclipsing the other, but in the case of J Brand and designer Hussein Chalayan, the partnership that produced a highly anticipated denim collection this year seemed seamless.
J Brand creative director Susie Crippen (above left, with model Danica) and Chalayan, 39, chose three out of their initial nine sketches to produce. The Circuit is a jodhpur-esque jean that's slouchy in the thigh and tapered at the ankle, the Boyfriend is a relaxed fit and the Legging is comfortable, sexy and the most popular style in the line.
Designer Jeremy Scott, the court jester of the fashion flock, routinely raids the pop culture pantry with his tongue firmly in cheek. He's sent models across the catwalk dressed as ice cream cones and candy bars, and his "Flintstones"-themed collection includes jagged-edged, saber-tooth-tiger spotted tunics and dresses and bone-accessorized top knots.
Scott has also partnered with French luggage maker Longchamp (this season it's a hot-pink bag with a crossed "Flintstones" bones pattern) and has an ongoing collaboration with Adidas (some of his track suits have bold leopard spots; others, Keith Haring prints). He may not be a native son, but his Waring blender approach to slicing and dicing popular culture into wearable ribbons makes him fit right in. Scott's collection is priced between $225 and $2,000.
Mark Hunter may resemble a young Jerry Garcia, but the 24-year-old with the nom de shutterbug "the Cobra Snake" is actually closer in spirit to the love child of Andy Warhol and Weegee. The candids king of the club-kids set, self-anointed chronicler of street fashion and reseller of secondhand threads is well on his way to becoming the fashion crowd's house photographer.
Following in the footsteps of legions who've headed west to reinvent themselves, the rag-trade reality show "Project Runway" changed channels and production companies and relocated. Heidi Klum and increasingly less-than-mild-mannered mentor Tim Gunn are now basking in a sun-drenched, celebrity-stocked sixth season set in downtown L.A. and airing on Lifetime.
Although the show is expected to shift coasts from season to season (all but the final episodes of a New York-based Season 7 are already in the can), the first cycle to touch down here makes L.A.'s offerings seem so picture-perfect you may find yourself searching for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in the credits.
Best in class
When it comes to up-and-comers, it's a four-way tie for the L.A. labels we love.
* Chic and understated Bird handbags (by former model and part-time comedienne Liz Carey, 32, above left) are a refreshing change in a sea of heavy-handed and over-adorned bags.
* Carlee Santarelli, 24, above right, doesn't make statement jewelry as much as jewelry that makes a statement; she collects everything from old Bill Blass fabric to real peacock feathers, encasing them under oval bubbles that magnify detail and couldn't be more charming. Her most recognizable creations are the vintage fabric cabochon cocktail rings she makes by hand in her downtown L.A. studio.
* The Malin Collection by Malin Nyman-Smallcombe, 35, is full of imaginative rope necklaces with eye-popping colored beads; the pieces are playful and totally unexpected -- unlike the drapey Bohemian jewelry that is so ubiquitous these days.
* L.D. Tuttle shoes, designed by Tiffany Tuttle, 32, are not for the timid. Cage heels such as the Screamer and the worn-in, chunky leather unisex boots with grommets called the Shifter exemplify the appeal that got Tuttle's work noticed by Victoria Bartlett at VPL and RVCA -- she created footwear for both for spring 2010.
Bird handbags,$200 to $2,400 at www.netaporter.com. Carlee Santarelli accessories range from $50 to $100 and are available at Arcade in West Hollywood. Malin Collection, $70 to $225, www.aplusr.com. LD Tuttle shoes, $300 to $500 at Saks Fifth Avenue and www.shopbop.com.
Big men on campus
Ben Harper and David Arquette have all the quintessential BMOC qualities. They're charismatic, famous and have a bevy of beautiful friends. Last spring, Harper, 39, and Arquette, 38, broadened their curriculum and launched Propr, a contemporary collection for men and women inspired by Southern California skate and surf culture, Pendleton and vintage OP.
The design duo have been friends for 10 years, but long before they met, they knew of each other's passion for rare vintage clothing. "I would get to a vintage shop and ask if they had a certain item," Harper said. "And they would be like, 'Oh, we did, but David Arquette was just here and bought it.' " Eventually, they met and developed a friendship and a mutual admiration for each other's style. "For fall, we looked to '60s Liverpool, beatniks and the poets of the period," Arquette said. Think fuss-free, plaid men's button-downs; women's shirtdresses; and straight-leg, dark-wash denim. Propr retails from $48 to $345 at various boutiques including Kitson and Fred Segal Trend.
The term "fashion empire" is often doled out too generously, but Max Azria, 60, defines the phrase. Since launching BCBG in 1989, Azria has expanded his business to include 22 labels, three runway shows each season and more than 560 BCBG retail stores worldwide. With his wife, Lubov -- the company's creative director since 1991 -- the designer and chief executive of Max Azria Group fuels the brands with the go-to clothing and accessories their loyal customers have come to know.
The company celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and it's hard to find a starlet who hasn't worn a Herve Leger bandage dress since Azria relaunched the label two years ago. Most recently he has teamed up with Miley Cyrus to channel her rock-bopper style into Wal-Mart stores.