One of the great joys of being a fashion critic is the ability to observe how designers all over the world riff on and reinterpret the L.A. look.
Watching the spring runway collections, whether I was sitting at a runway show in the crumbling Beekman Palace in New York City or at a 13th century convent in Paris, I was dreaming of California.
It wasn't just homesickness, though after weeks on the road, that could have been part of it. I was thinking about how the clothes would play here, how they might have been influenced by the vision of casual luxe that California has exported to the world, and how they might have been inspired by the landscape, art, architecture and attitude of this incredible place.
Some of the references were overt.
Michael Kors name-checked modernist California architects Richard Neutra and John Lautner in the show notes for his collection, a graphic take on 1960s-inspired glamour with shades of sunshine yellow, palm green and poppy red, and bold checks and stripes. The crystal-blue cloud and swimming pool prints on satin trousers, shorts and dresses brought to mind the postcard vistas framed by the indoor-outdoor homes nestled in the desert and the hills.
Meanwhile, Marc Jacobs seemed to pay homage to modernist California designer Rudi Gernreich, a visionary of the '60s Youthquake who was famous for bringing a graphic sensibility to fashion with patterns and cutouts. Jacobs started with a simple striped T-shirt (Factory girl Edie Sedgwick's wardrobe staple, and an L.A. staple if there ever was one). That first look morphed into an op art extravaganza of stripes and grids on everything from overcoats to jumpsuits. There were hints of Gernreich in Alexander Wang's collection as well; surgically precise graphic cutouts on mini-dresses recalled a similar effect Gernreich achieved using clear vinyl inserts.
Other collections nodded to SoCal style tribes and subcultures.
In his first ready-to-wear collection for Saint Laurent shown in Paris, L.A.-based Hedi Slimane summoned a rock 'n' roll, ladies-of-the-canyon vibe. Billowy maxi-dresses, feather-trimmed capes and wide-brimmed hats recalled Stevie Nicks in the '60s and '70s, while staying true to the fashion house's design vocabulary from that time. Tom Ford's slinky chain-mail gowns and kinky bondage boots brought to mind '50s and '60s vixens such as Tura Satana and Bettie Page. And Isabel Marant, whom we profile in this issue, showed rhinestone-studded jeans and sandals that could have come straight out of the North Hollywood atelier of legendary rodeo tailor to the stars Nudie Cohn, who outfitted Elvis Presley, Roy Rogers, Gram Parsons and many others.
London designer Holly Fulton tapped SoCal surf and skate culture, citing Patti McGee, the first women's national skateboard champion in Santa Monica in 1965, as an inspiration for brightly patterned board shorts and rockabilly raffia and plastic dresses with floral motifs. And L.A.'s Rozae Nichols turned to the open road, from the desert to the coast, engineering a prints-based collection for her Clover Canyon label inspired by low-rider car culture, roadside diners, rodeos, surf shacks and even cannabis leaves.
Then there were collections that got me thinking of home in a more abstract way.
At Rochas, dreamy, feminine pencil skirts, bra tops and high-waist swimsuits, set to a soundtrack of nostalgic Beach Boys tunes, conjured images of the halcyon days of summer and feelings of the fresh-faced optimism of the West Coast. Raf Simons' 21st century red carpet dresses for Dior, with their iridescent fabrics and super-short hem lengths, crackled with the electricity of Hollywood's next big thing. And at Celine, it was something totally different — slouchy satin pants, twist-front tunic tops and fur-lined, Birkenstock-like sandals that signaled stealth wealth.
A new uniform for the haute slacker, the Celine look would be perfect for an early-morning run to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. But only if you know the paparazzi are watching.
Whether you live here or are just California dreaming, it's all in stores now.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun