Gen Art Turns 10
(Gen Art's fresh faces)
There it was— the Peterson Automotive Museum splayed out along the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire. I could see part of its rooftop covered with a big white tent, people already swarmed around, outside of it, and at the check-in desk a few floors below, and through certain opened areas of the museum. To some it might have seemed a strange venue for the Gen Art Fresh Faces fashion show, to us it was a really sexy choice. Fast cars and fashion sounded pretty hot. I brought my aspiring designer friend Charon Persephone Nogues, she’s an eccentric, but when it comes to fashion her heart is in the right place. She talks about how wasteful it is to buy new clothes when there’s so much perfectly good clothes already out there. She worked in vintage fashion for a long time, in a place out in Long Beach that maintains a fresh 10 or 12 foot-high pile of castaways. Her passion became re-purposing old clothes. She can take something like a Cosby sweater and make it onto the coolest skirt with pockets and matching spats. Skirt become shirts, tablecloths become dresses. The girl is a genius in a Grey Gardens way. Anyway, I felt pretty lame next to her, she in an outfit worthy of Joan Crawford, and me in my skinny jeans and black boots. The rest of the crowd was also dressed up, like New York dressed up, not LA dressed up. I think I was the only person in denim, and worse, because of the misty rain, I had a jean jacket on— that’s right I was committing a denim-on-denim faux pas, known in certain circles as the Canadian Tuxedo. (Later, however, when it poured rain, I felt my outfit was almost vindicated). Anyway, before a suited doorman allowed us entry, we had to answer the following question: “Are you a smoker?” The question itself confused a lot people, some people smoke, but they wouldn’t officially declare themselves smokers. I don’t know why I said yes without hesitation, but I did and I was given a black bracelet. Later I felt lucky that I did have the foresight to cop to such a disgusting habit, because my black wrist band gained me entry to the Dunhill smokers lounge, where I had the best cigarette of my life, a fire -cured tobacco cigarette that tasted ever so faintly of English pipe tobacco, All you had to do was listen to a brief PR schpeal, show ID, and you too could have walked away with three boxes of smokes, a sleek silver cigarette case, and an intensified habit.
It was an evening of anniversaries. Dunhill was celebrating its 100th year of killing people slowly, Gen Art, its tenth year of harvesting LA’s emerging designers.
Charon and I had some time to kill before the show started, so we walked through the museum, panting at a Mach II, oohing and ahhing over the tiny Eshelmans, Messerschmitts and Isettas (Charon’s ex drove one) and made it back to the main tent just in time to grab a free glass of wine and take our seats. Jeffery Sebelia (a former Gen Art fresh face) was MC, and introduced a short film honoring the past 10 years of Gen Art’s place in Los Angeles fashion. We saw Louis Verdad, Ashley Paige, and other Gen Art alum talk about their first shows and what seemed to be overnight success. After showing at Gen Art, they booked big accounts— Fred Segal, Nordstrom’s; they opened their own stores. Gen Art is all about the rags to riches, it’s the fairy godmother in the fashion designer Cinderella tale.
Charon, with a hat she reinvented slanted just so perfectly as to cover an eye on one side of her face, and reveal a copper marcel wave on the other, and I watched the designers take their first trip into the spot light— CW Christian Weber, Dorothy Lee, Endovanera, Marlova, Orthodox, Rhys-Dwfen, Suh-Tahn, and Wren. (favorites included Endovanera’s cropped men’s pants and loose tees; Marlova’s knits; Suh-Tan’s billowy hoods; Wren’s sweet Lolita-like dresses). The entire fashion community and even a few celebrities
(Paula Abdul sat front row in a terrible silver leather cap which still probably looked better than my ensemble) packed it in the main tent. The mix made it feel somewhere between a meeting of Freemasons and a debutante coming out party.
Though she didn’t say, I wondered if the clothes were too boring for Charon. But she smiled and clapped her gloved hands. Gen Art isn’t about haute couture, it’s about labors of love and the pursuit of a dream.