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The Family That Primps Together...

“How do you like my feet? Do you think they are pretty?”

So ran the continuous black text on a white video screen — provocative questions about female body parts, self image and love — that formed the backdrop for the fashion presentation by Alms, one of three lines featured Friday night at Gen Art’s pre–L.A. Fashion Week event, the New Garde 2007. The overall effect was captivating. Designer Isabelle Carter’s subtly sculptural garments in solid-colored, lightweight silks were both artful and wearable, and a series of gathered striped Lurex pieces had a new wave/disco-futurist feel that was coolly set off by the video screen. As for the models’ feet, I couldn’t see them, but they all wore pretty shoes.

Mintee’s luxurious velvet jackets and dresses, like one gorgeous gold silk frock with a dropped waist and ruffles in shades of burgundy and rose, were on display in a decadent punk-meets–Hollywood Regency diorama. Models with their hair in tall spikes (possibly done with soap, à la the real punks) lolled about on velvet couches and strutted the black-and-white checkered floor, giving the whole thing a very Marie Antoinette flavor — minus the petits fours.

Gen Art alumna Hazel Brown took her presentation the furthest, creating a detailed Depression-era set where a “family” of wayward waifs and their stern matriarch went about their daily routines: knitting, mending and ironing; peeling potatoes for dinner; playing cards on the bed; and primping before the mirror, all dressed up and nowhere to go. The line has evolved beautifully since its debut in fall 2005; rough burlap has been replaced by black silk, and the pieces are dark, dramatic, romantic — and a little bit punk themselves. My favorites were the simple A-line dresses, whose beautiful construction was accentuated by layering black silk chiffon over white satin. Every seam and raw hem stood out, and the fits were perfection.

It was also nice that the models never broke character; when I rested my champagne glass on a dresser to take a picture, one of the “sisters” strolled over in her ballet slippers, picked it up and brought it over to the sink.