Another interruption in the designer runway narrative to Occupy L.A. – after a fashion. Or at least occupy ACE – Doug Chrismas’s cavernous (and – coincidence? – art deco) mid-Wilshire gallery space. It was one of those ultra-hot Santa Ana inflected days that Joan Didion warned us about. Who knew their deadly consequences included fashion shows staged in art galleries?
In theory, Fashion Week in L.A. has been in progress for at least a couple of days – emphasis on the word, ‘theory.’ In fact, this Examiner wonders if the better half of these events or presentations are entirely theoretical. Certainly the theoretical, or at least ‘conceptual,’ aspect of L.A. fashion was in evidence at last night’s ACE Gallery “installations.” What brought me out to ACE was local fashion genius, Henry Duarte, who years ago took denim dressing and accessorizing to the luxury level of cut, tailoring and wit. Your favorite J.Brands probably have not a little to do with his innovations. Duarte’s approach has always seemed as conceptual as it is tactile; and it was no different here. The frame for his design concept was a film (direction by Randy Focazio): a vulpine model that seemed to morph kaleidoscopically into a raptor-like armature for various design concepts. It was hard to distinguish between one concept or configuration and the next as model, wardrobe and various adornments were digitally stretched, splayed, folded, and otherwise digitally diced into zones of color, flesh and light. One of the basic ‘concepts’ was a kind of harness or vest – which Henry explained was made of fabric saturated in wax and molded into a configuration that resembled demonic wings. There was also a feathered, sequined bodice or dress that adorned the model, and another spare dress or costume appropriate for a black swan – especially if that swan had actually been a crow. Henry explained that there was indeed a collection for the runway; but it was hard to see how the separate pieces would have spun out from this concept – even as the film spun them out in an endless loop. The raptor-like harness-cape in waxed fabric might have been taken in any number of directions – a design trope I could easily imagine Gaultier appreciating and spinning out inventively. So could Henry, of course – but I never actually saw the separate pieces. Elsewhere he has discussed his concept as a function of “defragmentation” – which visually seems closer to fragmentation – or perhaps a thorough deconstruction and shredding into sheer abstraction. (The photograph I saw made me think of the artist, John Outterbridge (a resurgent presence in recent months, with shows at both the Hammer Museum and LAXArt on La Cienega), as much as any fashion or textile designer.)
It seemed to be a show for birds in every sense, and we all felt a bit caged in ACE’s sweltering space. Feathers everywhere – and this seems to be a frequent occurrence under the “Concept Los Angeles” banner. (Feathers adorning shoulders and headpieces were featured prominently in Skingraft’s Fall 2011 concept presentation.) Another installation (though it wasn’t clear whose – Mo Wear or Summer Rose x Melanie Mills) featured two models in extravagantly feathered headdresses and what looked like two-piece tutus with feather bustles. Fortunately for the models the clothing was spare – not much more than bikini weight. A live owl installed in the same setting was not nearly so fortunate. It appeared to be gasping in the heat – which could easily have been in the upper 80s. (One would think they might have spared the bird this cruelty.)
In another gallery, a garden party tableau featured the design of Curly-V, whose principal design influences appear to be Lily Pulitzer and Takashi Murakami (although the “Lily” (or Curly?) who made these designs could only have come from suburban Los Angeles or the East End of London. The owl wasn’t the only animal gasping by this point, and your faithful Examiner took a break for some fresh air. I returned to confront a queue to get into the runway show, which in theory was to feature Sachika’s as well as Henry Duarte’s new Spring collections. Those pieces will have to wait for my next post (assuming I can find them on-line). I was unable to get back in – which may not have been the worst thing in the world. I’m hoping that owl found a way to fly out.