View more photos in Lina Lecaro's “Nightranger Hits L.A. Fashion Week” slideshow.

Dissed and dismissed for its dearth of big designer lineups, less than stellar attendees and general lack of innovation, L.A. Fashion Week, or rather “month” (runway events for spring 2010 take up all of October this season) is obviously still struggling to find its way, but there have been promising moments. Last week, the focus returned to downtown, and Nightranger, ever the style watcher, took notice. We weren’t too excited about the stuff at the old Los Angeles Theatre but were bummed to have missed local faves Skin.Graft and Louver were at MOCA, both of which we hear fulfilled expectations. We did catch some other designer displays downtown, notably featuring heavy musical elements. Thursday, vintage vamp Elizabeth Mason, a.k.a. the Paper Bag Princess, paid tribute to Valentino at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, and her uber-fitted, impeccably tailored, fabulously detailed column dresses were undeniably beguiling. Unfortunately, the music portion that preceded them wasn’t. Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin, a pal of Mason’s, presented her new protégé, Sinatra wannabe Matt Goss (formerly of boy band Bros), who played too long and was off-key for most of his numbers. Apparently this guy is huge in Vegas, but crammed with a full band and bookended by booty-shaking members of Sin City’s Pussycat Dolls at the head of the runway, his set felt really out of place. Advice to designers thinking of featuring live bands/singers as part of their shows: Keep it short and sweet if they’re before the clothes (we’re not there to see a concert) or incorporate the artist into the actual runway experience in an interesting way that makes sense.

Though Mason has a huge celeb clientele, Antin and actress Maria Bello — who was presented the Spirit Award for Style and Substance — were probably the biggest stars there. Well, after another, rather odd pair: Cheech and Chong. No idea Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin were fashion mavens, but their wives were stylish. Chong told us he and his Up in Smoke co-star are in the process of planning a new tour for next year with a more overt political agenda: legalization. Before that, though, you can catch the comic duo pontificating on pot and more, as hosts of this weekend’s annual SmokeOut concert in San Bernardino. Other bands on the bill include Slipknot, deftones, Pennywise, Bad Brains, Mix Master Mike and a reunited Sublime (minus deceased singer Brad Nowell, of course). After MOCA, it was off to Ghetto Gloss Gallery for another retro-garbed gathering, a Carrie-themed photo shoot and Bloody Prom Party. Patrons donned vintage formal attire like ’70s maxi-dresses and ruffled tuxes (available for cheap at the store), posed in front of a backdrop modeled after the one in the De Palma horror classic, then got doused with buckets of fake blood from the balcony above. It was quite the beautiful mess. Leave it to GG to turn a creepy classic into a rollicking good time and inspiration for an upcoming exhibit. See the photographic results during their Twelve Days of Christmas show in December.

Despite less than remarkable official events to promote it each season, we feel L.A. is a fashion mecca. From the mismatched mayhem of the music club and art gallery scenes to the label-whore galore of Hollywood’s red carpets, there’s no shortage of fierce fashion out there, and the most intriguing usually has a rule-breaker sensibility. We’d expected the “top secret” presentation from former Smashbox show-ers Elmer Ave to have this rogue undercurrent, and it did somewhat. The setup, at the old bank building on Main Street just up from the Regent Theatre, was unique, with a backdrop of scaffolding that housed a DJ booth. The first couple of models began climbing it like Catwoman to start the music for the show. Would have preferred the pure rock sounds (Ramones, New York Dolls, etc.) spun beforehand to the usual thumping electro during the model parade, but the spectacle was still entertaining, even if the clothes themselves weren’t particularly surprising. There were a lot of the same military-inspired jackets and black/red color palette we’ve seen from these guys before, minus the dandyish mod feel we loved when we first discovered the line. Head designer Jonny Day, who was recently featured on Bravo’s Project Runway clone, The Fashion Show, seems to have taken the helm here, and while we really dug his punk-rock purist approach, the tops definitely trumped the bottoms. The vests and jackets were razor-sharp, but some of the pants and skirts seemed unfinished and unflattering, especially on the ladies. The Doll fit, Elmer’s unisex line, is relatively new, so it may have yet to find its stitch/niche. On the whole, we give the show two devil horns up for edgy basics. One thing: Though they complemented Elmer’s looks, L.A. designers need to stop trying to make Doc Martens happen again.

A rock & roll fashion show can only be followed up by one thing: live rawkin! So it was farewell downtown, and hello Van Nuys. Yep, the Valley. Some amazing music gets created in studios north of Hollywood, and our pal Rami Jaffee (keyboardist for the Foo Fighters and session player for countless more) happens to head up one of them, Fonogenic Studios, along with producer bros Tal & Ran Pink. Every year the guys open up the place for a jam bash and this time, they invited hundreds of pals to come together for the sounds of the Beatles, courtesy of live karaoke band the Four Quarrymen. Free booze, tacos and a kegger vibe minus the douchey college-kid crowd, this one was a blast, and we even got a magical mystery tour of the studio. Those who tried fronting the fabsters were pretty pitchy not to mention pickled by the time we got there, but the players — performing in front of psychedelic Yellow Submarine projections — were so spot-on it didn’t matter. These guys would make a great party band for any occasion. Get info on ’em at As for our boy Rami, look for him tickling the keys with the Foos on an upcoming VH1 Storytellers, filming this week and airing sometime next year.

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