It's a strange time for fashion. The 500-pound gorilla in the room threatening to squash all the 98-pound models is, of course, the crappy economy. If you remember, our city's semi-longstanding Fashion Week at Smashbox died a sad death last year in October, just before the nation's banks started self-destructing. The arts collective Boxeight has since thrown itself into the breach. So how do you do Fashion Week if belts are tightening and nobody has any money to spend?
At this season's GenArt show at the historic Los Angeles Theater in downtown, there's no celebrity guest "host" reading from a cheesy speech, just marketing guru Jennifer Egan in a short black dress, her long, straight, brunette mermaid hair streaming down her back, humbly thanking the people who actually bought tickets to the night's show. The young women at the check-in table are a tad less haughty. As are the older cougars lingering by the bar. Even the fashionistas angling to be the prettiest girls in the room seem more somber, despite having added obnoxious new words to their vocabulary ("recessionista": yuck!). Undeterred, the photographer mafia are there once more jockeying for position on the risers.
There are even the requisite few celebs. Clint Catalyst, looking handsomely vampire-like, is sitting across the aisle. As the lights go down, one of the contestants from Project Runway Season 2, Nick Verreos (the nice one you want to hang out with at parties), scurries to his seat.
What comes through with much of the bullshit scraped away is people's dedication to fashion, glamour and beauty despite the rough times. It's Scarlet O'hara sewing herself a ballgown out of the green velvet curtains with the war of Northern aggression raging and Tara smoldering in ruins around her. It's touching, really.
GenArt is the show for emerging talent, and three new designers took the runway tonight. Society for Rational Dress did a vaguely military collection for Fall 09. Shirts were chopped up and tucked beneath bomber jackets. Fluttery, feminine chiffon dresses are harnessed with butch leather shoulder straps. Several of the girls--in cream cowl-neck sweaters and little chainmail shawls--are modern day Joans of Arc.
Raquel Allegra did a kind of lonesome Mexican cowboy thing. Models came out with wide-brimmed black Zorro hats pulled down low over their eyes. There were little leather culottes and chocolate brown leather tank dresses, which the girls wore with black ankle socks and oxfords: cute and eclectic.
But to my mind, the standout collection is the one from Grai, the line designed by Otis College grad Maya Yogev. Yogev, according to her website, is interested in "the Victorian Era and Russian ballet to punk rock and goth esthetics." She lives in Los Angeles with her "devil cat" Kiki.
Looking at Grai's clothes, I pretty much forgot about the dire state of the world. The silhouette is long and tall--so tall the models look like they're on stilts--with big, trapezoidal coat collars. The Grai line, I later found out, is based on the designer's quest for the perfect coat. So, there are batwing-sleeve leather coats and flowing black kimono wraps paired with slinky, floor-sweeping skirts.
The serious, unsmiling models are post-apocalyptic Dune priestesses, all ascetic, pale faces, a smidge of black eyeliner and heads wrapped in black turbans. What hair is visible is shellacked into triangles, and feet, shoes, and ankles are mummified in swaths of cloth. This is how to do goth if you want to seem like you are grown up and have gobs of discretionary income.
The overall impression is of layer upon complex layer of slanting, asymmetrical hems, and different textures of black--gleaming, dominatrix oil-slick black next to dull, light-sucking black-hole black. It is dramatic, and emotional and simultaneously luxe and minimal, if that makes sense.
"So, did you pick out your prom dress?" said the guy sitting next to me. "I was thinking something in black. I had a smile on my face because one of my longtime friends is Elvira."
Grai for Fall 09
Society for Rational Dress
Girls and their painful shoes! Economy be damned.