It's hard to imagine Georgia O'Keeffe, nunchaku, scorpions and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA sharing the same sentence, much less the same fashion runway, but all of those things — and a whole lot more — were in the mix at Opening Ceremony's fall 2017 women's runway show presented June 9 downtown as part of Made LA's second annual art, fashion and music showcase.
It marked the first time the New York-based label has shown here, and because founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are both Southern California natives, they took it as an opportunity to pay homage to their roots.
"We're kind of celebrating a journey — and our parents and immigration," Lim said backstage just before the show. "It was a journey westward knowing that we'd be showing in L.A. on the eve of our [West Hollywood store's] 10-year anniversary. It's a celebration of that — and Georgia O'Keeffe and powerful women."
Lim and Leon said that the collection's Southwestern New Mexico vibe was influenced by O'Keeffe's personal style as well as the work of artist Ken Price. "[His] amazing paintings gave us the palette, the textures and the motifs," Leon said. "So the collection is a marriage of the two of them we're calling a 'modern western.' "
That meant western riffs on the label's signature silhouettes — varsity-style jackets with studding detail, kimono jackets with a scurrying scorpion print and chiffon dresses in a cowpoke-appropriate plaid — in a desert-landscape-color palette heavy on cactus green, dusky pink and terra cotta orange. Adding to the Southwestern feel of the collection were a range of ruched pieces — skirts, shirts, pants and a dress that wouldn't have been out of place in a 19th century saloon — fringed trousers and a black skirt with an embossed pattern reminiscent of a tooled leather cowboy belt.
Standout pieces included a pink, diamond-patterned chiffon dress, a black dress with voluminous plaid accordion-pleat sleeves and a bright pink coat with a white, cloud-like splatter print.
The splatter-print coat ended up becoming all the more memorable during the runway show's finale walk when the model wearing it started careening into — and then engaging in hand-to-hand combat with — other models, touching off a knock-down, drag-out martial-arts melee worthy of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill." It ended with a cameo by the design duo confronting the renegade model, who then dispatched them into the inky blackness at the top of the runway with a single powerful blow.
The model, it turns out, was choreographer, actor and stuntwoman Zöe Bell, Uma Thurman's stunt double in "Kill Bill," who choreographed the show-ending chaos, nunchaku and all, as the designers' way to both pay homage to powerful women and, according to Leon, a nod to their shared Asian heritage (Lim is of Korean descent; Leon of Peruvian/Chinese). And, lest anyone miss the "Kill Bill"/powerful women throughline (the 2003 movie is about a woman seeking revenge on those who've done her horribly wrong), the show ended with a short, freewheeling performance by Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA, who also produced that film's soundtrack.
Opening Ceremony's June 9 show was noteworthy for a couple of off-runway reasons as well. Because it presented an in-season fall 2017 collection, some of the pieces were available immediately after the show (Leon said more product will drop in two weeks with deliveries following in July, August and September). And because the show was part of Made LA's lineup at L.A. Live's Event Deck (on the tented rooftop of a parking garage sandwiched between Staples Center and the 110 Freeway) that was accessible to the ticket-buying public, fans of the brand needed to go no farther than Opening Ceremony's onsite pop-up shop a few steps away from the show venue to buy a "Love Stings" T-shirt ($125) or western-inspired reversible silk track jacket ($575) they'd just seen.
Though neither see-now, buy-now collections nor "fashiontainment" runway shows are exactly novel ideas, an approach that combines elements of both could well be the answer as fashion brands continue to try to balance consumer demand with the constraints of the calendar.
For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.