Suited for sophistication

Sophisticated skirt suits and shimmering Oscar-worthy gowns from the Lourdes Chavez collection left viewers pining for more at the Las Candelas benefit fashion show Monday at the Burbank Airport Marriott.

Those not satisfied with just gazing from afar ventured back stage after the show for a closer peek at the garments, to try them on and to chat with the designer.

“I think of clothes as an investment,” Chavez said. “I create classic designs that you can go through your closet five years from now and it will still be in fashion.”

She designs dresses, suits and cocktail dresses and specializes in mother-of-the-bride and special-occasion dresses.

“I work with my clients to create something just for them,” she said. “I can take a design and make a different neckline, skirt or sleeve length.”

Fabrics include silks, wools, linens, mohair and cashmere from England, France, Austria, Italy, Spain and Belgium.

“She takes so much time and attention to detail,” said Stephanie Alvarez, her public relations manager.

Alvarez took a jacket out from the rack with coordinating buttons.

“I have the manufacturer create buttons made out of the same fabric,” Chavez said, adding that some customers don’t want the buttons to detract from the jewelry they wear.

She has hundreds of buttons that she keeps in clear plastic boxes.

“I order buttons I love,” she said. “If I don’t use them right away, I save them. I have shelves and shelves of them. My husband hates that. He calls me the Imelda Marcos of buttons. Someday I’m going to use them.”

Some of the buttons come from Rome and Barona, a neighborhood of Milan, in Italy. She also uses buttons that a company makes from crystal purchased from Swarovski.

“They do beautiful pieces,” she said. “My buttons cost from $15 to $20 each sometimes, especially the Swarovski beads.”

Joanne Reeves of Montrose was marveling at the gowns, and the black Italian silk chiffon caught her eye. It had hand beading alternating with crocheted bugle beads.

Reeves, who has worked in the entertainment industry and attended many Academy Awards shows, said she saw a resemblance in Chavez’s work to several of the gowns in her own collection by the late Ruben Panis.

“I can see lots of similarities in the fabric and design,” she said. “Chavez has modernized his looks.”

For Chavez, Panis was one of her idols.

“And not just because he was my teacher,” Chavez said. “To see his clothes and fabrics, it was a really amazing experience for me.”

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