Drummers, dancers, doggies, surfers, skaters and toddlers: It was one big happy family on the runway at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund show at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles on Tuesday, where 10 designers gathered to show selections from their spring collections, from Brother Vellies' must-have, made-in-Africa furry babouche slippers, to Jonathan Simkhai's extraordinary form-fitting thread lace gowns for the modern bride.
This year's event to showcase emerging design talent was hosted by fashion's reigning couple Kim Kardashian (pregnancy chic in an Altuzarra side-slit skirt) and Kanye West, along with Vogue's Anna Wintour and Amazon Fashion's Cathy Beaudoin.
The audience was starry — James Corden chatting up Reese Witherspoon; Chrissy Teigen ducking in late; "Ray Donovan" daughter Kerris Dorsey all grown up in a Marchesa bustier -- alongside a who's who of L.A. style, from Chrome Hearts' rock 'n' roll co-founder Laurie Stark and her daughter, singer Jesse Jo Stark, to red carpet designer Monique Lhuillier.
Everyone gathered in the garden to see work by the finalists of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, the "Project Runway"-style design competition that's tied more to the fashion industry than the entertainment industry.
Over the years, the program has nurtured designers who have gone on to become very big deals, including Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra and Prabal Gurung. This year's winner (to be announced Nov. 2) will receive $400,000 and mentorship from the best in the business. And Amazon will be supporting the whole group by selling selections from their spring collections online, and airing the unscripted "Fashion Fund" series documenting their journeys.
This year's crop of designers is quite diverse in terms of approach, background, inspiration and even geographical location.
Thaddeus O'Neil considers himself a surfer first and a designer of luxe playwear second. (His twisted tropical prints cast an irreverent eye on the sunny genre of surf wear.)
Chromat's Becca McCharen uses her background in architecture and urban planning to engineer computer-designed swim and workout wear she calls "wearable exoskeletons." (The cord lacing details on her swimsuits and tank tops were super sexy and interesting.)
Matt and Emily Baldwin design their Baldwin denim line far away from the New York-L.A. fashion axis -- in Kansas City, Kansas. (Their high-waist denim maxi skirt was a chic standout.)
"These finalists are designing for a world where diversity is celebrated. Technology and social media are more important, and so is respecting new ideas about gender identity," said Mark Holgate, Fashion News Director at Vogue. So, rather than staging a traditional runway show, the Vogue team looked to the streets, casting style tribes of ravers, surfers, stompers, rockers -- even stoners. The result was a crew that ranged from albino actor/dancer Shaun Ross to L.A. jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth's Labradoodle, Teddy.
"It was great that they were all individuals," Matt Baldwin said of the casting for the show. "It read like art."
The concept resonated particularly well in Los Angeles, where the fashion industry is less about runway than real world attire, as in what people wear every day -- denim, board shorts, Juicy Couture's haute track suits of yesterday, and Elder Statesman's tie-dye cashmere of today.
"It's the people on the street who inspire us," said Baja East's John Targon. "And they usually happen to be in L.A."