L.A. Fashion Week—So Far, So Good

We were more than a little impressed with the Los Angeles Fashion Council shows

Well, one week down, one more to go—with four separate organizations hosting L.A. Fashion Week shows throughout next week. Yes, in L.A.. we really should call it Fashion Month.

Officially, or technically,  Los Angeles Fashion Week kicked off on Wednesday with two full days of shows organized by the Los Angeles Fashion Council (LAFC) in collaboration with Maker City L.A. The shows, which were held at The Reef (formerly L.A. Mart) downtown, flowed between two rooms—The Atelier, where informal presentations took place and The Living Room, which had a traditional catwalk. For a fledgling organization the LAFC did a commendable job in putting together a smooth-running, professional series of events, all without major sponsorships and the money they bring. And that’s thanks to the group’s tireless founder Kelsi Smith, who wrangled seats for attendees, herded crowds between the two rooms and kept designers on track for showtime. I even spied her playing DJ for one show—she was backstage cueing up songs, looking like the wizard of Oz pulling levers behind the velvet curtain. “You should have seen me earlier when I had to step in as the house photographer,” Smith said with a smile before darting backstage again. (If this is how well she can run a show with little financing, I can only imagine what Smith could do if she had say an automobile sponsor and bigger budget.) I was equally impressed with the talent of the designers presenting—some I knew (Odylyne, Eva Franco) and some were completely new to me (William Bradley, Colton Dane). These four shows were among my favorite, here’s why:

I’m not the only one gushing about the Tuscaloosa, Alabama transplant. William Bradley Parnell was one of the breakout hits of L.A. Fashion Week, so far. Parnell’s collection was fresh and inventive. It was original and artistic but completely wearable—and totally memorable. Inspired by the painting “Blind Man’s Last Meal” by Pablo Picasso, Parnell interpreted the artist’s thick paint strokes as bright pink, blue, and black washes across canvas-white garments. He riffed on the artist’s smock, creating asymmetrical apron-like peplums on dresses and pantsuits. I’m already looking forward to his next collection.

I’ve been a fan of Odylyne designer Stephanie Lampkin’s dreamy boho dresses since I saw them a few LA Fashion Weeks ago, but this show was off the charts. The set was awash in a purple glow while candles flickered on bookshelves, in votives on the floor, and on a fireplace mantel, which dripped with exotic bouquets. And one by one ethereal creatures adorned with crowns made of bones and feathers and dressed in flowing ivory gowns of lace and embroidered silk floated slowly down the runway. It felt as if we in the crowd were voyeurs, secretly watching an order of goddesses performing a mystical ceremony.  This line is, in fact, called “The Ceremony” and the intended ritual is marriage. This is how Lampkin does bridal—romantic and fully bohemian. The brides’ headdresses were created by Kate Thompson of Amaroq and were equally stunning works of art.

A child opera and theater actor, Colton Dane Lasater was influenced very early (6-years-old early) by the ornate and sumptuous costumes he saw on stage. His fondness for the opulent was evident in the metallic copper suits he sent down the runway at Maker City L.A. last night. What I loved about the entire collection—filled with pencil skirts, short suits, rompers, dresses, and even evening gowns—was Lasater’s use of rich fabrics (sourced from Paris and Italy) and his attention to fine tailoring. The looks were sophisticated, elegant, and timeless. And there were more than a few that I would love to have in my wardrobe (like this shirt dress!).

Eva Franco is an L.A. fashion veteran. She’s known for her flirty frocks and she didn’t disappoint at her show last night, there were many—from fit-and-flare, girl-next-door styles to shapely-bombshell lace numbers and even a wide-leg pantsuit, which I am currently lusting after. Another favorite was a white and black crop top and A-line skirt ensemble (heads up: this combo is going to be a huge trend in the spring).  And lastly, I loved Franco’s show because her inclusion may have been spurred by the desire to build community rather than commerce, since her clothes are already sold in hundreds of stores worldwide.  Either way, I was pleased to see her support L.A. Fashion Week. (I wish more established L.A.-based designers, shoe makers, handbag makers would rally for the cause.)