Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Los Angeles, Fall ‘06 Review

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L.A. Fashion Week officially known as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (MBFW) held March 19th -23rd, 2006 is not NY’s Olympus Fashion Week and need not be. With its unique style, personality and overflow of Hollywood celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Cher, Lara Flynn Boyle, Hilary and Haylie Duff, Mya, Eve, Christina Aguilera, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Paula Abdul and Vanessa Williams, it is clear L.A. is slowly but surely emerging as a sophisticated fashion center.

Fashion Production
Nevertheless, despite the celebrity studded MBFW, a lot of the shows caused consternation with their overall presentation. Usually, production is invisible, however this year, some production companies were determined to have their own Fall ’06 shows consisting of poor organization, very late starts and poor attendance. Needless to say, not everyone can be a fashion show producer. Fashion shows are NOT event planning. Wannabe producers, for the sake of those who spend time and money to participate, please observe/take lessons from production companies who “get itâ€? such as Film Fashion, EM Productions, SPR LA, HSM PR and Glow Media. 

Design Suites at HD Buttercup
About 10-15mins away from the MBFW site was the newly renovated HD Buttercup Design Suites featuring some eclectic and innovative designers. Two Massachusetts companies claimed fashions in the sport category: Ame and Lulu design versatile and fashionable Golf and Tennis bags while Plank designs yoga mats with neat embroideries and colorful carrier bags and totes. From NY were three designers who claimed the apparel and accessory categories: Dean Alan’s line replicates an India meets Berkeley feel resulting in casual yet contemporary lifestyle driven clothes; Plan B uses denim that neither looks nor feels like denim to create modern and sexy silhouettes; and Perfume River, a handbag company, fuses Vietnamese culture with modern global influences to create one of a kind handbags. Within L.A., Ziba Beauty cleaned out any competition with its ancient art of threading that makes eyebrow waxing too much fuss. 

Back at MBFW
Super fashionable was the launch of Go Girl the energy drink for women with a unique taste and 75% Pathothenic acid (a.k.a. vitamin B5 calms nerves and improves skin appearance). The proceeds of sales from Go Girl are used to support breast cancer research. Also, super fashionable was the DRIVE YOUR FUTURE Design Awards L.A. Scholarship announced by Mercedes-Benz, USA and Southern California Mercedes-Benz Dealer Association (SCMBDA). The $20,000 scholarship is awarded to a first time college student to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandizing (FIDM), Los Angeles, and also comes with an opportunity to intern with FIDM’s famous alum designer Kevan Hall. Pat Bolter, President of SCMBDA says it best “[w]hen personal vision is matched with opportunity, extraordinary things can happen.â€? Agreed! 

Unfashionable, however, was the launch of the Canadian company NV’s Rapid Weight Loss Beauty Pill with their tag line “Be desired�. Think Nicole Richie on her seemingly rapid weight loss track to anorexia. Thanks but no thanks.

International Flavor
Six of the 35 designers at MBFW were foreigners whose presence demonstrated the diversity that the city of Angels is known for. Carlos Demichelis (Mexico), Buffalo (Canada), Agent Provacateur (London), Peter Lau (Hong Kong), Annie Lin (Australia),Valeria (Italy) and Chulo Pony (Canada). Peter Lau was particularly intriguing. His corset themed designs reminiscent of the 1900 to 1910s had a modern appeal especially with his fusion of rich textured Asian fabrics. Nevertheless, the designer’s matching bottoms were eccentric and need deconstruction to make them wearable.

MBFW Makeup and Clothing Trends
Red lips and very little color on the cheeks were the makeup trends on the runways. The focus was on sculpting of the face as models sashayed the runway with warm tones, blush colors and a modern silky sunny matte finish reminiscence of the 80s.
Clothing trends were borrowed from the ‘20s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Designers seemed eager to have women feel youthful and very feminine. Runways reflected varied styles of coats, dresses (mostly figure hugging) and jackets matched with tailored knee shorts. The hourglass silhouette also dominated the runways. Also dominant was the theme of East meets West via way of Chinese and Japanese influences on the runways. Reminiscent of the film “Memoirs of a Geisha�, there were use of luxurious fabrics such as polka dot silk chiffons, silks, silk charmeuse, velvet and lace shaped into kimono like blouses and paired with classic pants and/or skirts.

A comeback was also the baby doll and ballerina dresses although it’s doubtful these looks will be well received; since baby doll dresses would make the average American woman look larger than her true shape.

Select Designers
Kevan Hall the authority on fit for Hollywood celebrities, especially for red carpet events, showed a collection inspired by Diana Ross’s 1975 movie “Mahagonyâ€? in which Ross plays the character Tracy-- a personal assistant of an advertising executive who finds fame and ultimately fulfils her dreams of being a couture designer. Hall says he chose the film, “because there were so many great fashion moments in that movie [including] the great finale where she designed all this wonderful Asian inspired designs.â€? 

Diana Ross’s son was at the show and approved the collection so did Hall’s many loyal fans including his brother who is actor Curtis Vondie Hall.

Equally strong was former model turned designer Yael Aflalo. “I used to model but I wasn’t very goodâ€?, says Yael. But her motivation to be a designer was because, “I didn’t like people telling me what to do.â€? Indeed, although her young label Yaya has a new CEO, John Levine, it is clear Yael is in control. Expanding her label to include dresses and leather jackets but still showing her signature strength which is in trousers and sweaters, Yael used fine quality European Fabrics including Italian fine wool blend to create a youthful, chic but grownup collection.  

Elsie Katz Couture did not disappoint either. Super sexy was her use of silk charmeuse, velvet, satin and wool boucle fabrics to create gorgeous silhouettes. A favorite was her backless keyhole gown with poet sleeve and thigh slit in platinum panne’velvet.

First time showing at MBFW was San Francisco based Joseph Domingo. His themed collection “Safari Roseâ€? was a use of fabrics with animal prints such as the giraffe and leopard to create a very wearable collection. A little twist was his Audrey Hepburn black dress with beaded Waist and Hem. Definitely divine were shoes on the models designed by shoe artist “Vâ€?. 

It was clear Kara Saun’s collection, star from reality T.V. show Project Runway, was highly anticipated by her guests as most applauded even before her first model took the runway. Overall, she did not disappoint with her use of rich textured fabrics cut into beautiful evening gowns that draped the body well. However, some of her looks became repetitive almost to the point of boring as her garments and styles lacked diversity.

Alan Del Rosario’s collection was simply breathtaking. Exquisite and beautiful was the collection of Uriel Saenz. Although a first time shower at MBFW, he seemed like a veteran. Inspired by the revival of downtown L.A., he created modern easy to fit architectural collection with clean lines reminiscent of the design style of Balenciaga. Downtown L.A.’s revival includes the city’s attempt to attract high end retail stores, health clubs, bookstores, night clubs, restaurants, hotels and a $90 million Nokia theatre.

Sue Wong is simply incomparable. Celebrating international vintage glamour, she traveled with her audience, around the world, showing her modern take on fashions in Shanghai in the ‘30s and Cairo, Berlin, Paris, New York, London and Hollywood in the ‘20s. As is typical, most of her gowns were heavy with embellishments including crystals and her novelty beadwork.

Anthony Franco was about immaculate classic tailoring for the gentleman with use of grey and black colors and silk and merino wool fabrics. Also impressive was Kelly Nishimoto with her fusion of Scottish plaids and Asian painted silks in dark jewel tone colors to create, among others, classic oxford like white shirts merged with body hugging plaid dresses.

Jennifer Nicholson was strong on fabric selection but simple and unmoving in terms of creativity and cuts. Intriguing and charismatic, however, was her father Jack Nicholson who was in attendance along with other celebrities.

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