While we were slightly dismayed not to see any L.A.-based designers on the list of CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists announced last week, we were happy to see Thaddeus O'Neil's name on the list — for a couple of reasons.
First, I had just become acquainted with the menswear label — having seen his spring and summer 2016 collection the day before the short list was announced — and it was easily one of my favorite out-of-the-curve collections coming out of New York Fashion Week: Men's. Second, the laid-back, surfer-with-a-twist vibe of his slouchy sweaters, boldly patterned button-fronts and billowy board shorts make the New York-based brand wholly L.A.-appropriate.
Born and raised a surfer, O'Neil, who holds a master's degree in philosophy of art, launched his namesake menswear line in 2013 setting out to make what he describes as "American luxury playwear for après surf inspired by the hobos of the sea." And based on what came down the runway in New York City last week, he seems to have done just that.
Titled "Children of the Night" O'Neil's collection managed to marry a dark and dangerous vampire vibe with the bright and boldly patterned trappings of a tropical paradise. The result, like a third-season episode of "Gilligan's Island," doesn't sound like it should work at all but somehow does.
In the show notes, O'Neil says he took inspiration from the original 1897 "Dracula" novel by Bram Stoker. "In terms of archetypes, I wanted to darken the perception of the surfer and lighten the perception of the vampire," he explains in the notes. "The only thing sexier than a surfer is a vampire; and the only thing sexier than a vampire is a surfer."
Grounded in a palette of blue and citron, with accents that included gold and mint green, the resulting spring and summer 2016 collection included generously cut knee-length pleated walk shorts, many festooned with tropical florals or bold stripes (and in some cases both), car coats and board shorts in shimmery ultra suede, slouchy cardigans, tank tops with intarsia knit pineapples and a slew of aloha-worthy button-fronts.
One standout of the collection was a bold print that appeared on several pieces in the collection — including a tank top and trench coat — depicting a figure wearing a Native American war bonnet garb and holding a rifle juxtaposed with palm trees and outsized pineapples. In the show notes O'Neil says the print consists of original block prints by his friend British illustrator Hugo Guinness. "I adore his work," O'Neil writes. "The scene we created was Lone Ranger and Tonto and the Attack of the Killer Pineapples in the tropical gardens of Henri Rousseau."
The result? A runway debut that was easily one of the week's most memorable shows and a collection chock full of laid-back — and wearable — luxe.
The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fun finalists (for the complete list, see our post here) will decamp to So Cal in October where they'll stage a fashion show at the Chateau Marmont. A winner and two runners-up will be announced at a gala dinner in New York City on Nov. 2.
Thaddeus O'Neil is available locally at Ron Herman at Fred Segal Center Melrose, 8100 Melrose Avenue, as well as through online retailers East Dane, Carson Street Clothiers and Matches Fashion.