In last week’s paper, a letter writer — taking issue with a theater review — suggested that perhaps the critic should turn her eye to fashion shows instead. As if fashion isn’t a cultural spectacle, as revealing of human nature as any play, film or book. And nothing puts the spectacular in spectacle like a runway show. The egos, the tears, the conniving, the name-dropping, the backstabbing, the desperation — and that’s just the front-row crashers.

Then the lights dim, and anything could happen. A fashion show, like all art, inspires the thrill of possibility, the drama of discovery. It is the designer’s vision at its most pure. However, purity is not always pretty — and not all clothes belong on a runway, which became profoundly evident once again during many of the nearly 40 shows at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios (some of the most innovative pieces came from the more than 50 designers who put on shows solo, such as Grey Ant and Society for Rational Dress, or in groups citywide, such as Gen Art’s seventh annual “Fresh Faces in Fashion,” which featured a number of up-and-comers, including Wooden Mustache and Wyeth). Money, not art, ruled. And again, too many of the talented designers who define L.A. style were nowhere to be seen. Ah, but I’ve been down this rant before.

Not that there’s anything wrong with denim and tees — the Cali look, fer sure, rocks. Better on the street, however. Although when Frankie B. jean queen Daniella Clarke’s high-energy show kicked off with a celeb-studded crowd spontaneously waving their cell phones to John Lennon’s “Real Love” as if they were holding lighters at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, it was a goose-bump moment.

So was the dazzling debut of Juan Carlos Obando, a former art director who came out of nowhere with a very polished and sexy collection. On these pages we celebrate that thrill of possibility realized.

Bright, sexy, optimistic statements that evoke America, past and future: (From left)
Kate O’Connor, Pegah Anvarian, Petro Zillia, Coco Kliks

High-glam art for the most
discerning drama queens: (Clockwise from top left) Eduardo Lucero, Louis Verdad, Rami Kashou, Kevan Hall

Clever ideas and the skills to carry them out
: (From left) Wyeth, Juan Carlos
Obando, Society for Rational Dress, Wooden

Singular visions that propel fashion forward: (From left) MartinMartin, Grey Ant, Oligo Tissew

LA Weekly