Alexander the Great used military might to conquer the known world, but Los Angeles has conquered it with something even more powerful: Pop culture.
Through the exportation of movies, TV reality shows and music videos, the entertainment industry disseminates more fashion trends in one season than Paris has since the days of Madame Pompadour.
Of course, not all of what the entertainment industry exports from L.A. is necessarily good. Still, the world is increasingly recognizing that California casual - with occasional flashes of red carpet glamour - may be the one fashion dictator that cannot be overthrown.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios offered that glimpse into the West. Held Oct. 25-29 in Culver City, CA, the event featured a slew of fledgling new lines. Of the 40-odd designers showing, a large number were foreign born, bringing an international flavor that gives Los Angeles a charming eclecticism compared to other, more homogeneous fashion capitals.
Though the week-long event drew an ever-growing roster of global media and celebrities, guests noted a lesser amount of "buzz," perhaps because of the notable absence of big-name, previously attending designers (although Lucky Brand Jeans held an offsite event), or a sense that the producers' desire to make the event more business-friendly had robbed L.A. Fashion Week of some of its appeal.
Like prior shows, however, this recent edition confirmed that in fashion, the lone constant is change. The following are highlights from the spring 2005 collections:
r Portugal native and Canada-based Arthur Mendonca showed a feminine and understated ready-to-wear collection. Shapes ranged from '50s A-line pleated dresses to body-hugging satin dresses with plunging necklines whose hemlines fell just below the knee. Shimmering silver, deep blue and metallic peach were prevalent in this mostly solids collection, though there were updated floral prints as well. Jackets came '80s style with sleeves rolled up, and grommet belts were plentiful.
r Custo Barcelona has been called Roberto Cavalli on a budget. The Spain-based line, which boasts a fleet of global retail shops, seemed to channel '80s illustrator Patrick Nagel. Color combinations emphasized both contrast and harmony, and included shades of mint and lime with a hefty dose of metallic fabrics. Capri pants, hooded half-shirts, ruffled miniskirts and '80s-style jackets and cardigans abounded, as did genie pants worn with a swim top. Accessories included metallic newsboy caps and floppy men's hats. Custo also showed samples of its men's line, including checked cotton trousers, printed T-shirts and embroidered and patched wovens.
r One-year-old Davies, founded by Welsh-born Erica Davies, offered relaxed and flowing shapes in soft solids of rose and aqua, plus multicolored diagonal striped chiffon prints. Jersey dresses and tops featured a variety of ruchings, gathers and pleats resulting in a pretty and highly wearable collection.
r Heike Jarick's spring 2005 collection was entitled "Savage gypsies in the urban lagoon." That translated into a chic bohemianism that included both slim, ruched dresses and a gold bikini with snake-patterned motorcycle jacket. The German-born designer's line also made ample use of metallic accents (a trend alert).
r Cesar De La Parra's collection was entitled "Bella," but "Bellissimo" would have been better. A refreshing dose of true artistry amid a slew of designers content to send denim down the runway, De La Parra's glamorous evening gowns were well received. Shapes were mostly long and form fitting, and came in combinations of champagne and brown and black and gold. Daywear was sexy and sophisticated, with De La Parra's restrained whimsy revealed in a lavender fur coat.
r Ella Moss, designed by Pamella Protzel, truly exemplifies the L.A. aesthetic of casual chic, and the eminently wearable line is a Fashion Week favorite. Shapes were mostly flowing and colors were diverse. Bold stripes and geometric patterns dominated.
r Maggie Barry aimed for "rock pirates" and "shredded Victorians," resulting in a punky and provocative collection for the woman accustomed to getting what she wants. Ruffled baby doll dresses, satin capri pants, gothic cheerleader skirts and T-shirts styled like corsets gave the collection the nomadic character of chic rock groupies going from town to town in a 19th century carriage towed by a Harley. The more restrained evening dresses were pretty in the classic sense, and offered appeal to the nice girl as well as the femme fatale.
r Pegah Anvarian, another local favorite, showed her trademark jersey dresses and tops in soft muted desert shades. Flowing ruffles, gathers and ruchings conveyed freedom and femininity.
r Juan Carlos Obando would rather design for the red carpet diva than the L.A. girl shuffling from the beach to the nightclub. His sophisticated, slender evening dresses and dress suits came in shimmering satin solids, heavy with artful pleats and gathers. Color combinations included turquoise paired with brown. Like many designers at L.A. Fashion Week, Obando showed several swimwear examples, including hot pink speedos for men.
r Eduardo Lucero has developed an A-list clientele who prize his dramatic red-carpet looks. A perennial highlight of L.A. Fashion Week, Lucero again delivered high glamour. A silk tie-dye gown came with a long train, and his wrap gowns and other evening dresses gave models the impression of floating down the runway. Colors were more muted than last year's bold black and gold combinations, though Lucero threw in a red and black Hawaiian-print dress as a charming non sequitur.