Los Angeles Fashion Week spring 2014: Style Fashion Week L.A.

From left, an off-white gown with cut-out sleeves and crystal cuffs from Ina Soltani; Malan Breton's floral suit with cropped trousers; and Michael Costello's gold and black metallic mermaid gown.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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The venue: After a long run at the former St. Vibiana cathedral, the sixth season of Style Fashion Week kicked off its five-day program Sunday night at a new venue: L.A. Live’s Event Deck. With so many show locations during fashion week -- from the Grove to the former Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo -- this venue’s proximity to the L.A. Fashion District is one argument in its favor.

A 20,000-square-foot reception area and two tented runways provide an atmosphere similar to the Bryant Park tents at New York Fashion Week’s former location and allow adequate space to accommodate crowds and a clean, no-fuss backdrop with the focus where it should be: on the clothes. There were production hiccups, such as a lack of organized seating assignments, leading to embarrassing front-row ousting by handlers, a confused bottleneck of spectators at the entryways and a 50-minute-plus delay in the first presentation’s start time. Crowds were sparse at the “brand marketplace,” featuring a hard-to-see hair styling lounge by VoCe Haircare and Eden by Eden Sassoon and a motley mix of vendors, including West Hollywood plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Keyes, Pasadena-based Dulcenea lingerie and leather “alternative accessories,” including harnesses, by local brand Jakimac.

The scene: At the evening’s first show, by local designer Ina Soltani, the majority of front-row viewers were clad in dressed-up jeans, including broken-in boyfriend styles and tailored denim trousers. The crowd at the following two large-tent presentations, by New York City- and Paris-based designer Malan Breton and local “Project Runway” alum Michael Costello, drew a slightly more formal crowd -- many of the women in fitted, nightclub-ready dresses.


The inspiration: Pre-show publicity by Style Fashion Week summed up the inspiration behind the designers’ collections. With black-and-white images of glamorous film icons such as Veronica Lake, Katharine Hepburn and Grace Kelly projected at the back of the runway, Ina Soltani’s collection was a tribute to “the golden era of Hollywood.” Her show opened with a choreographed jazz-inspired dance performance by models clad in black leotards and fishnet stockings, waving feathered fans.

Malan Breton, who also showed his collection on Sept. 7 at New York Fashion Week, was inspired by “The strong Saville Row silhouettes of the 1960’s British pop invasion meet the decadent romance of Won Kar Wei’s film ‘In the Mood for Love.’”

The “architectural structures mixed with organic silhouettes” in 29-year-old Michael Costello’s latest collections, shown a day earlier at Portland’s FashioNXT event, were influenced by the aerial view from a plane during his travels.

The looks: Soltani’s parade of glamorous little black dresses and glitzy mermaid gowns, laden with sequins, crystals and ostrich feather trim, fit the on-stage and red-carpet outings of a celebrity fan base that includes Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lopez. Many styles had dramatic trains. The colors were mostly black, off-white and metallic, with a flash of contrasting color in the form of underskirts or linings. There were also a few red and cobalt looks.

Breton’s signatures were deftly tailored menswear suiting: jackets paired with slim shorts or cropped pants, luxurious high-gloss silk, metallic and satin fabrications, Asian-inspired prints and corset detailing on the women’s looks, from lacing at the backs of gowns to leather corsets layered over dresses. Colors included pastel pinks, blues and lavenders as well as crisp black and white, flaming red and electric blue. “Men are becoming the prize peacock,” he said in a recent YouTube video, alluding to the line’s bold prints and colors.

Costello showed a lineup of dramatic hourglass gowns, displaying plenty of skin via peek-a-boo cut-outs, sheer panels, up-to-there thigh slits and bodysuit looks sans skirts. Exposed zippers were a key accent, as were strappy, teetering platform heels. One shirtless male model inexplicably appeared among the sea of dresses, wearing fitted cobalt pants finished with an unflattering, oversize horizontal zipper running across the crotch and black combat boots. Colors included black, cobalt, coral and Day-Glo yellow-green.


After 25 looks and a catwalk lap by the models and designer, Costello’s presentation suddenly restarted and yet another 25 looks trotted down the runway. The second presentation was the Michael Costello Couture collection, with yet more sheers and exaggerated flounces that underlined the influence of Costello’s internship with Bob Mackie. Arty metallic prints, giant triangular-shaped gold earrings and more exquisite detailing, such as hand-beaded lace, were the hallmarks. The color palette was also dialed back to more sophisticated metallics and neutrals.

The verdict: While here and there Soltani’s cuts may seem a little too stuck in the past, on the whole she is on a winning streak with her lineup of showstopping gowns and fancy little black dresses. Special details make her dresses stand out, and the glamour quotient is high, always a calling card in this town.

Sharply tailored, slim men’s suiting is Breton’s forte and a testament to his training at heritage British menswear brand Turnbull & Asser. The rich silk brocades and fresh colors, such as a lavender jacket paired with sleek black leather pants, are a winning look. On the other hand, his incohesive women’s wear feels like an after-thought. The best looks carried over the Asian-patterned fabrics from the menswear and combined it with corsetry, but the uneven showing also included tuxedo-inspired looks, some more minimalist gowns and a random pair of cork-textured trousers paired with cork wedge heels. And why add shoes three sizes too big to the mix, when the models already have a hard time walking in fitted gowns? At one point, a lowly white cotton ball stuffed into the back of a model’s pump popped onto the runway.

Many of Michael Costello’s softly structured gowns are absolutely lovely and ready for the stage or the Hollywood spotlight. But some looks came off as too costumey, and others had construction issues, gaping when they should fit like a second skin, and exposing a little too much -- do you really want a sheer panel to highlight a bellybutton or a nipple? There was also too little differentiation in the look of the two lines. Even in Hollywood, gowns and sheers are not exactly ready-to-wear, so the drawn-out presentation felt a bit monotonous.


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