Gen Art showcases the faces of fashion’s future

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

DESPITE past rumblings that emerging-talent showcase Gen Art, one of the more consistent components of Los Angeles’ ever-morphing fashion week landscape, might partner with one of the dueling L.A. Fashion Week groups, it’s going solo again this year. The two-night event features a fresh crop of new talent, two high-profile hosts and a dedicated eco-friendly night spotlighting green-leaning designers.

Gen Art, which is open to the public (tickets are available at, kicks off Thursday night at the Petersen Automotive Museum with a four-designer, eco-centric runway show hosted by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (and sponsored by health-snack maker SoyJoy). The lineup includes reworked, recycled and repurposed one-of-a-kind pieces by local labels Brigid Catiis and Popomomo and by West Coast organic-fiber sister acts the Battalion (Chrys and Linda Wong, who focus on bamboo) and Velvet Leaf (Becky and Laura Carter, who work in 100% certified organic cotton).

The following night, at the same venue, Mandy Moore will host Gen Art’s 11th annual Fresh Faces in Fashion, an event that has been the launching pad for such designers as Louis Verdad and Eduardo Lucero. This season’s “faces” include six women’s wear designers (Laeken, Maxine Dillon, Nanushka, Peonie, Quail and WAYF), along with four accessory brands (Posso, Laura Kranitz, Jerome C. Rousseau and Azature) and a pair of menswear lines (Wayne Hadly and KZO).


Designer Joel Knoernschild, 29, KZO creative director and founder, is often in the crowd at fashion weeks around the world -- we last saw him at the Paris runway debut of fellow Angeleno, friend and collaborator Brett Westfall of Unholy Matrimony -- and his upscale casual men’s line, now in its fourth season, melds those global influences with the SoCal casual aesthetic of his youth.

Knoernschild said the look of the Spring 2009 collection that will mark his runway debut was influenced by the sense of desolation and the longing for freedom embodied by Manzanar, the World War II Japanese American internment camp in California’s Owens Valley.

The designer, whose heritage is Japanese, German and American, channels that improbable inspiration into a smart-looking, highly engineered traveling-light collection. The result is a handful of denim, lightweight nylon and plaid pieces that look stylish and laid-back but are rife with clever technical details. A dark Japanese selvage denim has darts that form a subtle chevron design at the knees. A purple plaid shirt unzips along the back yoke to reveal a built-in backpack. And a Prada-worthy black nylon multi-pocketed jacket converts into a more traditional photographer’s vest.

Primed for a big breakout, KZO is exactly the kind of line that confirms L.A. has a deep bench of designer talent just waiting for the right coach to whistle them onto the playing field.

And once again, Gen Art is poised to throw out the Los Angeles Fashion Week’s first pitch.