Fashion Diary: The British (designers, that is) are coming

Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

London Fashion Week ended a few days ago, but next month, 12 of the city’s top designers plan to hit the road, bringing their clothes to Los Angeles in a bid for red carpet stardom.

The London Show Rooms Los Angeles is scheduled to take place Oct. 17-19 at a venue to be determined, with celebrities, stylists, retailers and press invited to attend. Jessica de Rothschild is to host a party at her L.A. home to celebrate, and plans are in the works for a customer event as well.

Among those planning to show are Erdem Moralioglu, maestro of lace and prints, who is a favorite of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Samantha Cameron, wife of the British prime minister. Marios Schwab, who has dressed Jessica Alba in his sculptural designs, will make the trip, as will master colorist Jonathan Saunders, a go-to for Thandie Newton. Roksanda Ilincic, who outfitted Dianna Agron in a couture-like ocean blue gown for the recent Emmy Awards, is also onboard.

The trip is part of an initiative funded by the European Regional Development Fund to help young designers raise their profiles internationally. To that end, London designers have hosted a showroom at Paris Fashion Week since 2008. “It was a response to designers in London doing well on the catwalk but needing more time post-show to meet buyers and sell,” said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. “We’ve seen fantastic dividends. Designers learn how much to manufacture and when they need to make deliveries. The professionalism of London designers has increased tenfold.”


The program expanded to New York in 2009 and makes its way to Los Angeles and Hong Kong for the first time this season.

Prada’s SoCal Vibe

Speaking of hitting the road, designer Miuccia Prada’s spring 2012 collection, shown in Milan last week, was particularly relevant for those who live in Southern California, the home of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Kustom Kulture and Hollywood hot rods.

I loved the funky retro 1950s car print on the satin coat and the shoes with the flames shooting out the back. And the one-piece bathing suits modeled like cars, hugging every curve were to die for.


The retro, Route 66-diner culture vibe was reminiscent of Proenza Schouler’s spring 2012 collection shown in New York last week, its themes of westward expansion and the broken American dream.

Very interesting ... and timely.

Legendary Chanel

Another strong runway trend for spring 2012 is the 1920s. The era was characterized by the Gatsby-style excess reflected in the Ralph Lauren and Gucci collections shown in New York and Milan respectively. But it was also the dawn of modern sportswear and Coco Chanel, whose knit jersey jackets, straight skirts and sailor blouses seemed to influence Tory Burch this season.


The fascination with Chanel is seemingly unending, Hal Vaughan’s recent book “Sleeping With the Enemy” made headlines for claiming the designer was a Nazi spy during World War II. A biography due in November, “Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life” by Lisa Chaney, will claim she was a lesbian drug addict.

Then there is “Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life” by Justine Picardie. The book was originally published in 2010, but a new edition is out now with drawings by Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. The book was fêted Thursday night in Los Angeles at a dinner hosted by the French fashion house and Liz Goldwyn, whose grandfather, studio head Samuel Goldwyn, orchestrated the ultimate publicity coup by paying Chanel $1 million to come to Hollywood and design film costumes during the depths of the Depression.

Picardie’s book also addresses Chanel’s purported anti-Semitism. In fact, the author examined the same document Vaughan cites as his smoking gun, a police report with Chanel’s Nazi spy code name and number. “I have a different interpretation,” said Picardie, who has Jewish family members who perished in camps during the war. “She made some terrible errors and had tragic flaws, but being a Nazi was not one of them.”

Picardie had access to Chanel archives and to Coco Chanel’s private apartment. She also visited the abbey where the designer, an orphan, was raised by nuns, and draws interesting parallels between Chanel’s design codes (the interlocking Cs, Maltese crosses and little black dresses) and the window panes, mosaics and stark uniforms there. Picardie also unearthed photos of Chanel on a fishing trip in Scotland with her lover, the Duke of Westminster, and wearing his tweed clothes. The tweed suit, as well as the fusing of masculine and feminine styles, are other hallmarks of Chanel designs.


“I’m not here to be an apologist for Chanel,” Picardie said. “And I’m not an authorized biographer. Karl Lagerfeld said he wanted to do the drawings because he liked the darkness in the book as well as the light.”