It’s official. The word designer is one thin thread away from being meaningless, especially in L.A. Pop tarts, rap moguls, TV personalities, feckless fame finaglers — who doesn’t have a clothing line these days? No wonder our city has such a tough time getting respect from fashion-media power players. There’s plenty of artistry here, but the only clothing creators who get any attention these days are the ones with a tabloid tie-in, something glaringly apparent from the media maelstrom that descended upon Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios last week.
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Jared Gold (center) and models after his amazing show at Union Station
Along with familiar ’Box-ers like Ashley Paige, Jenny Han and late addition Elmer Ave, Culver City’s most buzzed-about offerings included collections from Nicky Hilton, The Hills’ Lauren Conrad and the Pussycat Dolls’ Robin Antin — all three of whom seemed to generate more excitement during the seating process than did the actual shows. Which isn’t to say there weren’t some strong style statements or chic pieces in these collections. There were. Still, the glam-rockin’ runway at Maggie Barry’s Tuesday Smash mash was far more interesting, as was Jared Gold’s Easter-themed extravaganza at Union Station — definitely the hot-pink cherry on a relatively vanilla week.
Let’s start by conceding that Conrad’s looks were not hideous. Though her stuff was extremely safe and well-edited, the procession of dark-hued cocktail/club looks in slinky jersey, black lace and eye-popping black-and-white floral was also highly wearable. Most of the frocks were flatteringly cut, and (more surprising) they didn’t look cheap. Still, they didn’t quite have the Euro-flair Conrad was striving for. Her inspiration was a recent trip to Paris, but it takes more than a couple of berets to make a line oui.
Though there wasn’t much drama on the runway at this one, there was plenty in the crowd. Laguna Beach babes Kristin Cavallari and Stephen Colletti, along with Brody Jenner — all interlinked in the made-for-MTV dating chain (we are very ashamed to admit we know this, by the way) — were in the house. So were Hills pals Audrina Patridge and Whitney Port — the latter of whom, along with Conrad, was seen “working” days previously at Smashbox — with cameras in tow, of course. Look for it all in an upcoming episode.
Despite Port’s and Conrad’s (dubious) employment at Teen Vogue, we didn’t see one of the fashion world’s biggest figures at Conrad’s event. But the venerable André Leon Talley did show his face for two other designers the first day of Smashbox (Orthodox and our fave ’Box presenter, Julia Clancey), which gave us high hopes about what we’d see in subsequent days. The presence of Vogue’s editor at large in his trademark dark shades (so Bryant Park) was huge.
Hot to Trot (Not!)
Thankfully, André Leon Talley was a no-show at Nicky Hilton’s dreadful equestrian-inspired show Thursday under the Nikolai moniker. Like Conrad, the socialite’s an easy target, so we really wanted to like something here, but the S&M take on riding gear has sooo been done. Just go to a Bondage Ball bash sometime. Rubber leggings, riding jackets and helmets, microminis, big boots . . . snooze. We know it was supposed to be an edgy take on Hilton’s rich-girl-at-the- stables childhood, but these whores-, uh, horse-lover looks need to be put out to pasture — or at least the sale rack at Macy’s.
The front row was far more interesting to ogle. Nicky’s sis snuggled and slurped her new man, Benji Madden (who unveiled his own line at his DCMA store opening on Melrose this week), as daddy Rick sat awkwardly at her other side. Even weirder, considering the family presence, the preshow soundtrack: Prince’s dirty ditty “Darling Nikki.”
Everybody Wants Some
No big shocker, Nightranger’s fashion raves are always the ones that channel rock & roll rebelliousness, so we were thoroughly entertained by Maggie Barry’s bold bonanza of metallics, neon lace, rainbow leather and busy-body prints. It was all very over-the-top, maybe even too much so, but the vibrancy and energy were hard to fault, and several pieces (lamé dresses, striped jackets, ruffled skirts, beaded headdresses) were individually covetable, especially for those who straddle the stage.
“If it makes me look scary, it must be Barry . . . and if I seem a bit faggy, you know it’s from Maggie,” quipped David Lee Roth (he’s been wearing the designer for years) just before the runway romping commenced.
More glam and glitz were on hand at Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin’s closing Smashbox show for her lingerie line called Shhh. The sexy spectacle was part concert, part runway show, and its lack of high-fashion pretense (and lack of flesh coverage) allowed even the serious couture-minded contingent to let loose. The skivvies themselves were actually pretty sassy, in stripes, leopard prints, bright colors and strategically placed ruffles and bows. But enough already with the Old English lettering (so secondhand L.A.M.B.). It adorned not only several of the skimpy pieces but also a gaggle of glossed gals in the crowd — all contestants from Antin’s new televised girl-group search Girlicious.
Also in the audience were Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Quincy Jones, Dr. Dre, and Chelsea Korka from Antin’s first TV show, The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll (she tells us that even though she lost on the show, Antin signed her to another group, the Paradiso Girls, and she is releasing a disc on Interscope next year). As for the Dolls, the group is now a quintet after the departure of 30-year-old crimson-haired doll Carmit Bachar, but her absence was barely noticeable since one of the remaining gals has gone red. They performed a peppy five-song set, including the dance remix of that “Don’t Cha” song. The eye-candy quotient left us with a sugar-high headache.
The Golden Egg
Speaking of sweet stuff, Jared Gold’s much-touted presentation at Union Station the next night was yummier than a basket full of
chocolate bunnies. The Easter-parade-meets-(Coppola take on)–Marie Antoinette–meets-Russian-ballet prance-fest saw models Traci Lords, Madonna-ex Tony Ward and America’s Next Top Model alums groove across the elevated catwalk for more than 1,000 equally colorful club kids and style mavens, including Project Runway divas Sweet P and Kit Pistol, The L Word’s Kate French and actor Billy Zane, to name a few. Miss Derringer and ANTM’s Lisa D’Amato performed onstage after the show, but most swarmed upon Gold’s pop-up boutique to get their shop on, making the music more of a backdrop. D’Amato’s snarky rap noise was particularly appropriate during the retail frenzy, in which hundreds crammed into a tiny space to snatch up flimsy dresses in cotton and spandex, wild printed tees (the gold-lettered “Fuck the Scene” tee we wanted sold out in seconds!), striped skirts and his famous gem-encrusted live-cockroach pins. Selected guests were even gifted with mini Barbie-brand sewing machines. Once again, Gold lived up to his name. The show and after-party dripped with gilded excess and wacky theatricality.
It may not have been the most challenging or thought-provoking week, but this season’s fashionable functions did, at least, have entertainment value. Even with all the fame-mongering and new label figureheads at the forefront, the effort to break out of the jeans-and-flip-flops stereotype was prevalent. That’s progress for Los Angeles. Other events — the scaled-down Box Eight shows downtown, Sue Wong’s flapper-themed mansion bash, Junker Designs’ goth-o-rama in Beverly Hills — also offered plenty of excuses to get dressed up again, and Angelenos turned it out with varying degrees of hot and not. In fact, we had as much fun eyeing the week’s revelers as we did the runways. See ’em for yourself in our slide show (and on the Style Council blog).