Sue Wong may have cast the biggest shadow at Los Angeles Fashion Week, but a handful of smaller and emerging brands here captured the hearts of attendees.
Wong's fall 2015 "Mythos & Goddesses" collection, which on Monday kicked off four days of shows under the Art Hearts Fashion umbrella at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, was the designer's homage to the goddesses Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena. The result? Lots of draped, regal-looking pieces that would seem right at home in the halls of Mount Olympus: long beaded gowns with trains trailing out behind them, strapless peplum gowns, drop-waist gowns with pleated lace skirts and Grecian halter gowns with beaded neckbands. Many of the looks — which were heavy on intricate beadwork and embroidery — were accessorized with statement-making headgear: jeweled crowns, fan-shaped peacock-feather headdresses, Medusa-like headpieces and even a warrior-goddess spiked metal helmet that caused audible gasps from the audience. From the glamorous clothes on the runway to the chaos of the crowd, it was a fashion show scene right out of Central Casting.
Indeed, as an long-established L.A.-based designer, Wong's updated old Hollywood aesthetic is familiar to followers of the fashion scene here, which made it the perfect show to anchor Art Hearts Fashion's efforts to establish itself as a viable player during LA Fashion Week, which has been a fractured mosaic of events for the last several years. Another smart move was the group's decision to showcase a trio of children's apparel brands in the same space Tuesday night, including Shout Out Clothing, Jow Juniors and Isabella Couture, with Rapper 50 Cent's son Sire modeling a three-piece suit from the last of those lines on the runway (the youngest model in the show ended up being carried by his mother after getting cold feet).
The highlight of Concept Los Angeles, another group trying to showcase L.A. fashion, was a collaborative collection by Bay Area designer Camelia Skikos and South Korean menswear label Whichkim, which had Skikos designing the women's pieces and Whichkim's Dahae Kim creating the men's looks. Inspired by artist Victor Vasarely (known to some as the grandfather of the op art movement), the collection, which was shown March 7 at Beachwood Studios, played with the notion of duality: there were pieces with black and white color blocking; others were bisected by sharp angles or adorned with wide, lazy semi-circles; still others served up white polka dots on a black background. That notion of duality extended into the silhouette as well, with the puffy outer sleeves of zip-front varsity jackets forming graceful shoulder-to-hip arcs with capelets forming neat and tidy little triangles.
Standouts from the Los Angeles Fashion Council shows, held on Tuesday and Wednesday included Rose La Grua's notably more grown-up collection of silk, linen and wool pieces, including tap pants, paper-bag waist shorts, flirty dresses and tops that came in a palette of muted beige and were inspired by her collection of vintage lingerie. ("I wanted a collection that would get the stamp of approval from my grandmother," La Grua said backstage.) Newcomer Michael Ngo, another designer of note, seemed to be weeping with joy after sending his debut collection down the catwalk. Titled "Shinobi Ballroom," the fierce-looking collection of latex and studded leather skirts, robes and dresses was inspired by Willi Ninja, a dancer and choreographer some call "the godfather of voguing." And then there was just a dash of Gallic whimsy, courtesy of Paris-based label Vilorija's boldly patterned skirts, tops and trousers (accessorized with matching berets? Mais oui!)
But the hands-down heart-string-pluck of the week goes to William Bradley, a contemporary L.A.-based women's label by Tuscaloosa-to-L.A. transplants Brad Parnell and Rodney Jones, who showed a fall 2015 collection that included a modern mariachi look that combined a black cape over a white shirt with flare-pleated sleeves, billowy pale purple tops with Peter Pan collars, camel-colored capelet and skirt combinations, and silk trousers in sea foam green. They used black ribbon, tied in bows — over the arms, around collars like a down-South necktie, others around bare necks or hanging from skirt hems — as a visual through line.
"We call it the 'Tying the Knot' collection," Parnell, who designs the collection, said backstage after the show, "because [Rodney and I] are getting married in the fall." Parnell went on to explain how the collection was a reflection of their relationship: "It's everything that's us — a mix of soft pastel colors and architectural lines because it's a combination of Mid-Century, which Rodney really likes, and Art Deco which is my aesthetic. And it's got lots of layers because we both have layers we've peeled off as we've gotten to know each other, and we used grosgrain ribbon because it's super strong and it really holds."
And, just in case you're wondering, the duo has decided against designing their own wedding finery. "Who needs that kind of pressure?" said Parnell — a guy who had moments before had essentially sent his wedding announcement down the runway.