LAFW SS 2019 Leads With International Appeal
The Los Angeles Fashion Week has come a long way. Reaching out of the shadows of its Hollywood Golden Globes and Oscars, this urban wild spirit of fashion is a vogue made especially for a new generation. It thrives on a creative movement within and beyond the fashion industry.
The Spring/Summer 2019 LAFW season held at the Petersen Automotive Museum, recently announced as its new permanent location, had the city of angels’ fashion week take off full speed. Ukraine, Thailand, China, Australia, Russia and Norway were among the design corners of the world in attendance. Some designers searched to portray their cultural origin, while others made use of the newfound platform to create a unique experience.
Kate Hannah, from Australia, had beams of rainbow and smiles on the runway. The brand PJunk by Kate Hannah is a sustainable label with an ethical mindset. However, one could never tell. A variety of colored capes and dancing yarn pom-pom sweaters paired with oversized handbags were just a few of her highlights. An evening dress made of vintage scarves, tartan recycled from a kilt and also denim recycled jeans redefined what princesses are made of. “I have always designed season less collections. That way there is something for everyone no matter where you live in the world. No matter what the occasion, there is a piece that you can wear,” said Hannah.
“I design them to be pieces that you buy, and they are special. You keep them for years and pass them down. A real special artistical piece. Season-less really works well.”
The newfound freedom to showcase her collection at the LAFW paired with an innate Australian sunshine is fully embraced by the designer. “It’s my first time in America, first time in LA and I love it here. The people here really go out with their fashion. Back in Australia, the style is a bit different. Coming here to see more people like me that like to dress up and play around with different things is really cool,” said Hannah.
The Asian and Middle Eastern Lakris inspired collection by Russian designer Kristina Sutton adorned the runway in luxurious silks through a not so simple use of a shirt’s design. Long sleeves wrapped around models’ waist forming into lustrous flowing dresses or kimonos. Not too abstract or runway exclusive, various layers and buttons took a shape of their own. As is Sutton’s wish for the collection, your office shirt became a universal garment. “It transforms in all kinds of ways,” said Sutton. “When I came across this idea, I wanted to wear that because I like things that are versatile. You can wear it for the night out, day time, dress it up and dress it down.”
With an impressive first collection in her portfolio and having designed only one year, Sutton already has plans for next season that includes more cashmere and wool looks.
A gothic challenge from Sav Noir’s “Neon Goth Last Angels Collection” challenged the status quo stepping away from the runway and to the museum’s parking lot. As the standing guests formed their own runway and cheered on, the model creatures of the night appeared, as if from the sky. Orange, black, lace, sheer texture and a creative movement tattooed at the core of its heart was the norm. “The word of goth represents being an individual. Being very unique, going against the grain, un-brainwashing what the motive is supposed to be,” said Edwin Haynes, designer of Sav Noir. “This is how we survive. This is who we are. This is art.”
A peaceful tone on a mission to explore and challenge the idea of domestic abuse in China held a green apple and sunflower in hand. Pakwai’s audience paused to the sweet but strong message. Collection 030497 walked barefoot, its arms tied by pretty bows. “The collection represents my personal history of domestic violence and being proud of how far I have come. So I used my birthdate as the name,” said designer Perry Ma who is based in Hong Kong.
The silk dupioni jumpsuit had written on its chest “This Must Stop.” Another Pakwai white coat made from duvet was sprayed in the back with the same message. A military harness protected a grey silk organza top and georgette trousers. The portrait of a sketched girl tired but relentless was carried as in a runway funeral procession, bidding farewell to the girl or woman whose voice has risen. “Pakwai explores and raises awareness about domestic abuse and expresses the importance of fighting for women’s right to protection. Designer Perry Ma aims to send a message that no matter what you have been through, all the rough edges and layers of history are what make you real. Don’t be ashamed, show your scars. You are strong. What a pleasure to walk for this brand!” said model Jennifer Hammond.
The Precious Gemstone collection by Ukrainian designer Irina Marchuk was eye candy to the LAFW runway. Dresses of crystal gemstones with hints of sapphire, emeralds, chrysolite, rose quartz and even a diamond had the audience elevated into a euphoric sense of luxury. Trains of black and red lace added a highly elegant European gothic layer. Fringes of crystal gold and topaz flowed to the sharp beats of the runway. Mary Wilson, of The Supremes, reminisced on the legendary Motown days when she used to take the stage alongside Diana Ross and Florence Ballard. It took her back to a time in the 1960’s when the legendary vocalists’ outfits equally sparkled like diamonds. It was also former Hollywood Reporter Dianne Bennett’s favorite collection. “I liked Irina’s fashion. Very glamorous, beautifully assembled. The construction is elegant. Her clothes are largely for performers, like Taylor Swift. Just the biggest performers there are,” said Bennett.
“They don’t look like they would fall apart on stage. I have seen dresses come up apart literally. They look well made.” Bennett only wished Marchuck would stay a little longer in the LA to share more of her collection to the press.
Sea waves, sunsets, leaves and handmade sewn tree branches embellished the Life collection of Fabiana Milazzo. The Brazilian designer that has recently opened a new flagship store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, inspired a fresh of breath air. Her designs are intricate or silky monochromatic, only adorned by soft waves of ruffles. New embroidery techniques and reliefs add originality to a brand which Milazzo considers works of art. There is a soft sparkle in the Milazzo designs, not too overwhelming, truly inspired from nature. Whether it is evening gowns or day-by-day clothes the designer is taking the notion of environmentally friendly to new heights.
A Vogue Brasil after-party invited guests to her new store. A close up glimpse of these works of art shows promise for a newfound Brazilian gemstone.
NOR by Norway
In Romanian Latin, one of the oldest languages in the world, Norway means the cloud’s way. Surrounded by themes of the vibrantly beautiful northern lights of aurealis borealis and its sea, the audience discovered a new favorite destination. A draped silk dress mirrored the changing sky. A bold orange and jacket ensemble with a mini red riding hood’s cape, portrayed Norway’s glow of endless summers - as the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle. A nude cape adorned a yellow fringe clad outfit in resemblance of the yellow hues across the midnight sky in a place like Tromsø, also known as the ‘Paris of the North’.
“In Norway people are so close to the nature. We always have it within us,” said Veronica B. Vallenes, the award-winning Norwegian designer. “When I am abroad, and the spring time comes, I have to go to the ocean. The big mountains. Everything is quite majestic.”
The collection was also inspired by the Sami, the indigenous people of Norway and Northern Europe.
If there is a “super” fun collection to model it was Irish Latina’s. A preppy and chic uniform streetwear is what comes to mind or as one red hat suggests, “just ask Irish Latina.” Designer Rebecca Riviera is part Irish and Mexican, and with a contagious smile to match she launched a modern challenge to use post-consumer products. While the goal is to recycle and slow down fashion, the bright looks are edgy, and easily fitting a new generation whose eco-friendly motto is the new norm. The No New Waste collection has a cheer squad jacket titled the “Greatest Show on Earth.” With an orange Princeton cap and sneakers on, Riviera is surely coaching the girls and women alike whose uniform is simply the next cool thing.
The Well Dressed for a New Earth Bomme Studio collection designed by Bo Matthew Metz had star trekked models reimagine an entire lifestyle. A large screen of the flaming sun behind the runway made a great backdrop for the protection gear of a winter/spring/summer jacket. Futuristic suits, high shoulder pads and head jewelry created a new wardrobe style, maybe one that decades from now will be worn around a new space office. A long yellow fabric knitted dress flowed to shreds in style and convinced the audience of growing temperatures in this new world. Sheer fabric also softly covered the models allowing the human skin to breath.
The Made in California brand also functions as a custom build studio for film, television and entertainment. Metz designed his first Bright Future collection in 2012 which along brands such as Alexander Wang, Vivienne Westwood, Acne Studios, and Rick Owens. He has also designed Janelle Monaé’s outfit for The Today Show’s Live Special performance televised on NBC among other projects.
Day three of the Week shaped into a plethora of only Thai fashion designers. Issue Thailand was among the invited by the Royal Consulate of Thailand to show at the LAFW. The brand reached into our hearts with a Thai charisma and compassion from the teachings of the Dalai Lama. Its baroque motifs also graced the designs inspired by the first royals that visited Europe.
Q Design & Play or as their motto speaks We Design You Play had unruly oversized khaki pants and a Tarzan like boy version with a male bag over his chest. A long black silky season less coat’s top arms unzipped into a mesh. The designers Praphat Somboonsitti and Ekkapoom Treechairusmee audience dreamed reassured about the possibilities of trekking any adventure during this season. The models’ faces marked white added a playful side to the ready-to-wear collection.
Delivering a serious punch of fun and state affairs was Lala Love by designer Linda Charoenlab. Whether swimming with an eagle, a smiley face or a Thai tiger in a full body swimsuit, Charoenlab had a pair of sparkling boots to match her pieces. Fun vacation shirts with Asian characters, pinup models and lions paired with star ripped jeans had the audience again reconsider their vacation plans. A more worldwide and modern perspective to the collection included “night or everyday” gowns embellished with shoulder ruffles of clouds. Others had ruffles of an imprinted Thai tiger sneaking among jungle plants.
Based in London and Bangkok, LaLa Love launched in 2009 and has since sold to stores such as Topshop and Oxford Circus.
Another US debut this season at the LAFW was Iconic Official. The Thai brand recognized as a bohemian womenswear had the audiece delighted with skyscrapers, stars and aviation symbols. The models were equipped with early pilot helmets, glasses, ruffles and corsets. A blue sky summer dress with a farmer’s bag of oranges and American flag was proudly displayed in hand, perhaps in honor of the brand launching their US debut during the Week. Iconic Official’s designs have become popular in Thailand and featured in Asian publications such as Vogue Thailand and Elle.
The Oriental Blue collection of Sarran Jewelry by Sarran Youkongdee recognized the woman as a special, soft and sweet creature. Its “Asian Elegance” mission is also to highlight a rich Thai heritage while exploring the surrounding Asian cultures. Purple petals and gold tone chokers gracefully sustained Thai temple head pieces. A long crown of flower falling to the side and a gold halo elevated our spirits to a mysterious land, one that for a moment in time held the future and the past’s legacy in her hand. Princess Dara Rasamee the daughter of the King Ruler of Chiang Mai Inthawichayanon, also portrayed an important role in inspiring the collection. “During the 1880’s Princess Dara Rasamee of Chiang Mai became a highly respected royal consort and cultural representative of the Lanna Kingdom. Unlike the other women who wore their hair short, according to the central Thai style, Princess Dara wore her hair long and dressed in traditional Northern fashion such as ‘pasin,’ a long skirt similar to sarong. It was even rumored that Queen Victoria of England wanted to adopt Dara as her daughter,” the Sarran website noted.
“Long time ago, Thai women used flowers as accessories and extracted their scents to use as their perfume. They also used scented candles and poutpourri on their clothes. These women and their way of making themselves beautiful during the birth of the new era in Thailand a hundred years ago serve as my inspiration of this collection,” added the designer.
R/S Visual Thing explored other realms. Its hand painted faces recreated perspectives within the fashion industry and life. Kaleidoscopic prints in contrast with darker silky hues of outfits strutted in revolt. Despite the free spirit message intended a flock of white magician’s pigeons took flight hiding behind the audience chairs. Their graceful wings didn’t quite balance the wo/man created show’s special effects. Regardless, the thought behind it was special.
What stood out were a dance group called Chairlie’s Angels and the inspiration of the collection, actress and model Angela Rockwood who is also enabled in a wheel chair. This special group of women portrayed a new generation of modeling and take on overcoming life’s greatest challenges. “I think that whether someone is disabled or has anything different, it is a model, in general. You can take the context out of it,” said model Mia Schaikewitz.
“I was paralyzed when I was 15. At the time people wanted me to get into modeling. I was very tall, thin but that was the same age that I happened to become paralyzed. I became paralyzed which is similar to an aneurysm, it is called an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation). A blood vessel raptured through my spinal cord. Super, super rare. Didn’t really have any symptoms. It just happened one day, when I was 15. From that point on I have been paraplegic, and I use my wheel chair.”
Designer Radka Salemanova is a limitless creative artist and the collection’s bold mission has been to simply erase “the chair.”
The Bohemian Society
Behind designer Victor Wilde’s rebel spirit is a warm-hearted man whose legacy, if asked, would spell out just like it does on his grandfather’s tomb - whose name he also shares: ‘to know him was to love him.’
The Bohemian Society was a runway Manifest collection of all sorts, impossible not to love. Whether dramatic or comedic Wilde’s mission was to scout and restructure the raw talent in this city of angels. An oversized black sweater titled Princeton paired with symbol that embedded both the dollar and superman, came to life in a manifest of style. The sheer careless dress draped on a ‘je m’en fiche’ model and a pair of peaceful gang cowboys, dragging behind a bride’s veil, had the audience reimagine the wild west.
More than a designer, experiential artist Victor Wilde founded the label fifteen years ago in Downtown, Los Angeles. The spring/summer 2019 designs are old repurposed garments or some from different collections as an accent only. Wilde also sourced everything from his studio or the wholesale district in Downtown LA.
“I grew up in New York City. We had a very inclusive environment. We had all different types of people. That always stuck with me and it’s always been very important and a part of who I am,” said Wilde. “It was important to give back. I was given this platform and I wanted to make sure that I used it to give back to something good.”
With whiskey in hand after a successful closing show, Wilde took one last bow for this season. “Spread love. It’s the Brooklyn way.”
One way he kept true to his promise was to raise funds for various charities such as The Downtown Women’s Center, Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Center in Hollywood and the Los Angeles Poverty Department. He also scouted a magnificent 17 years old LGBT Center model (agonist model) who might just be among the industry’s fresh faces. Long blonde braids and with a figure that melts your heart one wouldn’t believe this was Travis’ first time modeling. Travis is the stage name which he goes by. “One of the coordinators from the program actually received an email from Victor’s people. I ended up trying out for it. Victor doesn’t say much. He just stares trying to get you, to see who you are,” said Travis.
“We have young people and different ethnicities. He’s bringing it all together. People that don’t look like the typical society. I love it.”
“I think that if we keep doing stuff like this we can change the way the fashion industry is,” added the young model, who has struggled to express himself in his hometown and values the unique opportunity he was given.
Before the Los Angeles based Elie Madi night gowns lit the way like fashion angels during the opening night with its new Moss Fashion Innovator Award in hand, Shiva Safai, the LAFW’s host shared a message that shapes what makes this city and initiative unique.
"Fashion is a language that speaks in no tongues, knows no dialect and knows no boundaries. Fashion is a language understood globally by every lover of art, sophistication and culture,” said Safai. “In a time with so much unnecessary divisiveness, people all over the globe, of every culture, color and creed can unite to make the world a more beautiful, inclusive and diverse place!"
Not too far away from the gemstones of this automotive museum the Hollywood sign gleams. Among the audience you can find legendary costume designer Sir Keith Holman. He designed a pair of Michael Jackson’s famous diamond gloves in collaboration with designer Stella Ruata among his other creations for Elizabeth Taylor, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Bobby Brown and Juan Gabriel. For Judy Garland, Holman also worked on a restoration project of her Wizard of Oz costume and red slippers. When Michael Jackson’s song plays in the background Holman shares, how much he is missed and equally how much he would have loved to be here. “I would like to do a show like this. What would inspire me is the past, the people before us, the people that are no longer here like Prince, Michael and Whitney. And then this new creativity. These are all things that have been done before but in a different way and a different fit. History repeats itself,” said Holman.
But even in a place like this a fashion show is an understatement for his legendary creations who could never be worn again. “At this spot I am humbled because across the street the Academy of Motion Pictures is building a museum and my archives will be prominently displayed there,” he added.
The LAFW experience is definitely not a size fits all. Dianne Bennett, former columnist for the Hollywood Reporter and owner of Cinema Suites sat next to her eight-year-old granddaughter Diana Bennett. It was Diana’s first fashion show, and with dreams of one day becoming an architect or interior designer, the young girl discovered a world which one day her generation will continue to design. “The outfits were out of this world,” she said, an enthusiasm seen only through a child’s eyes. “They were really different. I wouldn’t expect somebody wearing it.”
Her grandmother Dianne, who was also a power broker in the industry for 15 years as talent manager and publicist, has seen duller days in a city where entertainment costume design has always taken the lead. “Los Angeles is really Hollywood. The rest of the world will follow in fashion if LA can produce world class fashion. I do hope [today] that some of these designers pull on to the national or international stage. The world is waiting for something out of Hollywood that is exciting,” said Dianne.
That excitement translates into a once in a life time opportunity, as LAFW executive producer Arthur Chipman calls it. At the helm with an eagle’s eye, Mr. Chipman is already a remarkable figure in the industry. His recent accomplishments after five seasons surpass decades of industry trial and error. During the opening ceremony he was recognized by the City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell once more as the official fashion week in Los Angeles since 2011. A hopeful message included the LAFW’s contribution to the cultural diversity, creative community and economy of Los Angeles and around the world.
For someone that has opened the gates to a renaissance of LA urban wear and its worldwide leading consumer, he is humble enough to spend hours making sure this engine runs smoothly. You can find Chipman walking the red carpet to coordinating the smallest details during the shows, above and beyond. If true leadership had a label, his grasp and enthusiasm would be its mirror. Coming from Vancouver, Canada, LAFW holds a special place in his heart, perhaps an initiative connected to not only his own but this country’s legacy of the American dream. “It feels like the entire world has their dreams come to life in this city. That is why LA is such a hot bid right now for talent from around the world coming here,” said Chipman.
“One word, culture. That’s the reason why.”
“America is a place where you have a lot of ethnicities, backgrounds and cultural upbringings. It is embraced. People at the end of the day really don’t care where you’re from, what you’re doing as long as you do it well.”
While we can’t wait what the next season holds in store, I ask Mr. Chipman if has had the chance to sit tonight. “A lot of my days have ended at the end of the night, at Denny’s midnight having a grand slam breakfast. I would love to be able to say I had a chance to sit down but there is no business like the show business, always moving, always constantly going and making this happen,” he said.
Header image by Photographer Enrique Bautista.