MNG's vintage stylings take an unusual route to the mall

Times Staff Writer

AFTER just a few years, the fast fashion phenomenon has come down to a pretty predictable formula: Mass-market retailer hires cool designer, hypes the collaboration like mad but produces just a few pieces, and waits for the stampede. Proenza Schouler at Target. Viktor & Rolf at H&M. Roland Mouret at the Gap. All of those limited collections sold out in days, if not hours.

Now comes Jovovich-Hawk for MNG, making a comparatively stealth debut today in a store you probably haven't even heard of. It's worth buzzing about. The collection of vintage-inspired dresses and tailored pieces, designed by the L.A. duo of Milla Jovovich and Carmen Hawk, has been a boutique favorite since its debut nearly four years ago. Now the team is getting some mass-market exposure with Mango, the Barcelona-based cheap-chic chain that's on the verge of spreading like kudzu through the malls of America.

And yes, it's the same Jovovich who starred in films such as "Zoolander" and "Resident Evil." MNG by Mango has only recently entered the American market, but it's a massive retailer, with 995 stores in 89 countries. The first U.S. store opened in May at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa — a signal of the company's commitment to Southern California, and of taking on the other Spanish cheap-chic giant, Zara, by going head-to-head in many of the same malls. MNG's West Coast invasion advanced quickly with stores in Westfield shopping centers in Century City, Canoga Park and San Francisco. The Third Street Promenade flagship in Santa Monica is under construction.

Jovovich-Hawk for MNG is, naturally, a limited-edition collection of 12 dresses, each quite distinct, but united by a vintage sensibility. Sold in 12 U.S. stores, including all the California outlets, and online at , they cost from $55 for a mod mini to $145 for a tiered lace confection. Sure, most of the dresses are synthetics, but don't hold that against them. They are washable and silky, and amazingly indestructible.

One of the best pieces is a well-made, polyester jersey maxi dress that's a steal for $89. For the same price, you can pick up a fairly flimsy but stylish belted kimono dress that reflects the season's metallic and big-sleeve trends. Or a strappy, bead-edged, silk baby doll.

A $55 black-and-white, sleeveless knit mini recalls Mondrian prints and the '67 Jane Birkin, while a pink floral granny gown for $145 screams Woodstock (and "Cheap!" too, with flimsy lace for its straps and bodice).

Occasionally, the designers too literally sourced vintage prints, which gives some pieces the whiff of thrift store copies, not designer originals. Of course, no one's expecting them to last forever and become vintage classics themselves. Then again, with that polyester, they probably will.

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