Los Angeles’ fashion shows display vibrant diversity

What was on the runway in the two-plus weeks of spring 2014 fashion shows in Los Angeles was as varied as the venues themselves, which ranged from the entertainment complex L.A. Live downtown to the Grove, some seven miles to the west.

One of the standout events was the Los Angeles Fashion Council’s two days of runway shows held for the first time at the Grove. Staged in the center of the outdoor mall’s park area, where the Christmas tree sits each holiday season, the event showcased eight designers. And although the seats were reserved for invited guests, the venue had crossover appeal, allowing the public to sneak a peek and take pictures, giving the up-and-coming designers who traditionally show in L.A. much needed exposure.

What was on the runway at various venues was eclectic all right but did touch on several trends we saw on the runways elsewhere this season, including ethnic and floral prints, sports performance wear and art world-inspiration.

Among the highlights at the Fashion Council shows? Body-conscious dresses covered in delicate line drawings of roses or embossed floral patterns, with brightly colored contrast piping by Hollywood favorite Katharine Kidd; Moroccan-inspired paisley and gold foiled lace boho gowns, maxi-dresses and miniskirts by Odylyne designer Stephanie Lampkin; and black and white marble-patterned dresses, tone-on-tone tie-dye pieces and softly-draped white knit dresses and vests from Inka Sherman’s ISM Mode collection.

A pair of newcomers (winners of the Fashion Council’s Open Runway competition) also had strong, if more arty, showings: Amabelle Aguiluz’s collection was an exquisitely delicate-looking patchwork of stitched-together knits, and Rhode Island School of Design grad Rose La Grua’s grab bag of plaids and washed-to-pale-blue denim pieces had a punk-street-wear vibe.


Style Fashion Week at L.A. Live featured Ina Soltani’s Old Hollywood-inspired little black dresses and glitzy mermaid gowns laden with sequins, crystals and ostrich feather trim and Malan Breton’s sharply tailored, slim men’s suiting in colorful brocades, a testament to his training at heritage British menswear brand Turnbull and Asser. Many of Michael Costello’s softly structured gowns seemed ready for the stage or the Hollywood spotlight, even if some came off as too costumey.

At Concept Los Angeles in West Hollywood, Matthew Mathiasen, a 2009 graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising whose fashion world CV includes stints at Elmer Ave. and Betsey Johnson, showed a collection that varied from sporty street wear — shorts, skirts and zip-front crop tops layered under hoodies — to glittery sequined sleeveless mini-dresses and a curve-hugging floor-length gown.

Mike Vensel (who also happens to be the organizer of Concept) decided to showcase his fashion line and abstract expressionist artwork — together — by having models cross the room, pick up one of his paintings from a pile and place it on the floor on the other side of the room. This bit of performance art, Vensel said in his show notes, “explores evolution and chance by allowing the models to select art they find most interesting and arranging it in an evolving sculpture that focuses on the progression of time and changing tastes. Gimmicky? Sure. But it was more interesting than simply staring at a staid tableaux of models and afforded the audience ample opportunity to see the clothes close up — a collection that included a chiffon fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and some hand-painted, one-of-a-kind dresses.

Finally, the trade group Fashion Business Incorporated’s annual fashion show at Union Station featured a runway show with nine designer collections, including Liberty Sage’s summertime riffs on tuxedo dressing and jewel-covered racer-back dresses; Johnny Was’ bohemian patchwork pants and maxi-dresses; and graffiti-print leggings, reptile-patterned dolphin shorts and logo hoodies from action sports brand Continuous.

But the woman of the hour was swim and resort wear designer Shay Todd, who took home the MAFI Award (Moss Adams Fashion Innovator Award) and showed a selection of her pieces, including twilight blue, dip-dye sundresses, desert sunset print caftans and a burnt-clay-colored, one-piece swimsuit with cutouts and a tassel belt that brought to mind faraway lands.

Freelance writer Ingrid Schmidt contributed to this report.