Designers came from as far away as Istanbul and as nearby as Santa Monica to show their collections during the handful of disparate events that make up Los Angeles Fashion Week.
But the one thing they had in common was an admiration for L.A. as a global style mecca, from the skateboard culture that inspired L.A. designer Mike Vensel's grungy nod to his '80s and '90s youth to the Hollywood red carpet that is the holy grail for Turkish designer Özgür Masur, who is already well known for dressing film and TV stars in his intricately beaded gowns in Turkey and now hopes to make it here.
Masur was one of several haute carpetbaggers to bring their collections to Los Angeles during the market "week" that ran from March 9-18. His show at the event called Concept Los Angeles was part of a new effort to showcase Turkish designers. His gowns — draped goddess styles with cowl backs or fronts, scarf-like details, illusion mesh and intricate beading climbing over a shoulder or down a sleeve — were beautifully made and sophisticated enough for an A-lister.
Another highlight of Concept was Camelia Skikos, a Romanian from the Bay Area who launched her own fashion label after a stint as head of customization at Levi's. Her electric-hued, graphic mini-dresses, asymmetrical tops and pants were inspired by a San Francisco street map. Emily Daccarett, who is from Madera, Calif., showed a collection of sexy, '60s looks inspired by B-movie sirens. (Think "Barbarella"-like mini-dresses, swingy tops and hot pants.)
Vensel, who is both a Santa Monica-based designer and the organizer of Concept Los Angeles, titled his collection "Nothing," though it was hardly that. He showed 22 looks, including wrap dresses and drapey skirts, vests and capes in soft plaid flannels, denim and twill, with a grunge girl glam.
At the event called Style Fashion Week, New York-based Betsey Johnson was one of the star attractions. Her collection, a reprise of the one she showed just weeks ago in New York, was called "Hot." It was a cacophony of bright color, a zoo's worth of animal prints, a mother lode of metallics, acres of sparkly sequins and yards of thigh-high striped stockings — sometimes all in the same look. This was Johnson doing what she's been doing for years: crayon box color lace bodysuits, shaggy vests, crystal-studded leggings, skirts and dresses festooned with rose prints or cherries. And the audience ate it up. So, too, may viewers at home, since the show was taped for potential broadcast on "America's Next Top Model."
From closer to home, there was L.A.-based Michael Costello, who made fashion headlines when he dressed Beyoncé in a white lace gown at the Grammy Awards. His MT Costello ready-to-wear range included burgundy gowns in stretch satin, va-va-voom curve-hugging strapless gowns in red velvet, black lace gowns, black beaded dresses with an Art Deco vibe and a handful of leather pieces, some with all-over perforations, others with laser-cut designs. The Michael Costello made-to-order collection was dominated by icy white, body-conscious dresses in lace, beading and chiffon. The standout silhouette, whether in peekaboo lace, mesh or both, was the curve-hugging hourglass that flared out at the bottom to fishtail effect, just like the one Beyoncé wore.
There were a couple of showcase events worth noting. The Council of Fashion Designers of America brought its up-and-coming CFDA Incubator designers to town to meet L.A. stylists, buyers and media at an event at the W Hotel in Hollywood. Among the highlights? Timo Weiland's graphic double knit dresses, metallic leather separates and tux dresses; Ari Dein's sleepwear with a luxe-bohemian vibe and Jonathan Simkhai's sport-inspired Neoprene-backed pinstripe jersey and shorts, and crocodile cutout dress. "We see the value in showing these designers in L.A.," said CFDA deputy director Kelly McCauley. "There is a hunger for fashion here."
And the Los Angeles Fashion Council swapped its usual runway for a rooftop downtown. Among the collections on display was Linden, inspired by a visit to LACMA's James Turrell retrospective. The result was garments that, much like Turrell's work, reveal themselves the more intently you study them, including a gray sweater flecked nearly imperceptibly with gold Lurex and another top that, at first glance, appeared to be a gauzy black fabric layered over a white shirt but in reality was a sweater that achieved that effect thanks to subtle swirls of gray fiber mixed among the black.
Another one to watch? Together, which is the name of a colorful new line designed and sewn by Lily Chehrazi featuring dye sublimation prints adapted from nature photos taken by her photographer boyfriend, Benedict Barrett.
"It's high-tech active glamwear," said Chehrazi, "and it's super sustainable."
The designer pointed to a sleeveless crop top and knee-length skirt in a print that included green lily pads and purple flowers. "For example, that skirt and top are made of recycled water bottles ... with just a little bit of Spandex."
The next stop for the L.A. Fashion Council designers? Tokyo, where on March 17 they showed their lines during Tokyo Fashion Week proving that in today's global market, the runway never ends.