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LAFW: BOXeight, the one-eyed king of L.A. fashion week

March 16, 2009 |  2:59 pm

There has been an overwhelming amount of Goth fashion between the GenArt and BOXeight shows, but on Saturday, two designers showed “evening wear” collections that included surgical masks, “secret princes” and a disturbingly shrill scream from an audience member at the precise moment the first model took to the runway at the Jen Awad show.

Rage_awad Awad, a recent Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising grad, called her debut collection “Flamenco Rock.” This included toxic-green ruched dresses with black and gold lace insets, ill-fitting shift dresses and models wearing surgical masks over their mouths and strategically placed black electrical tape on their shirt fronts.

As the first look came out to a cover of Britney Spears' “Toxic,” an audience member let out the most twisted yelp that truly sounded like a hyena dying.  For a split second we thought it was part of the show’s rocker/emergency room aesthetic antics, but post-show the designer confirmed she had nothing to do with it. 

Awad also cleared up the confusion over which season, exactly, she was showing since the invitations went out touting a Spring/Summer collection and the March shows traditionally showcase Fall/Winter. “It’s an L.A. Fall/Winter collection," she said with a wide smile and half-hearted chuckle.

David Alexander spun a tale about a “broken” princess who is watched over by a “seRage_alexander3_2cret” prince lurking in the shadows, in his show notes. The prince and princess were his muses and they apparently like to wear a lot of stretch velvet turtleneck tops and super short dresses that make me think they might moonlight as a figure-skating duo. Alexander had a few good ideas -- an orchid-colored ball gown with Swarovski crystals on the bodice -- but his hemlines on skirts and dresses were so short, any princess or pop starlet who wears them will undoubtedly be prime paparazzi fodder every time she clambers from the back seat of her limo. 

An L.A.-based line called Future Heretics launched its first collection at the Los Angeles Theatre on Saturday evening, a hodgepodge heavy on graphic T-shirts that borrowed almost too liberally from popular culture (red lips from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Robert Indiana’s LOVE artwork) and others pieces that cribbed from Mother Nature (python print leggings and feathers on jacket shoulders).

The designers -- by our count five came out for a bow --

seemed to be trying to make a wry commentary about the value of art –- or position themselves as some sort of anRage_hereticsti-establishment voice -- one T-shirt proclaimed “Balenciaga is destroying our youth,” and another bearing the image of Damien Hirst-like jeweled skulls bore the words “[Expletive] skulls.” But the effort fell flat coming from a bunch of unknowns who would most likely mortgage their souls for a single golden molar.

When we spoke to the duo behind martinMARTIN a few months ago, they told me they were acquaintances of Paris-based designer Rick Owens, so we’ve decided their 20-minute-long funeral dirge of a show was more of an homage and less of a blatant appropriation of Owens' recent menswear runway show debut in Paris, from the heavy haz-mat gloves to the layered black-on-black pieces to the severely flat-ironed hair of the models and the variations on the man skirt.

Still, by working in a palette of black and only a few deviations into white, it was easy to see the skill that went into each piece –- especially the mixed fabrications that included leather, denim, silk and a cobwebby fabric that looked like moth-eaten felt. The collection, which could easily have been edited down by half, gets high marks for being easily one of the most professional-looking collections of the three-daRage_martinmartiny “fashion week.”

Walking back to the theater between shows, we noticed the marquee proclaiming “Fashion Week” had inverted a capital “M” to make the letter “W” (insert your “Fashion Meek” joke here). It would be easy to point to that –- or the printed BOXeight fliers that listed each of the three days as “March 13th” or the mercenary scramble for the unassigned seats -- as shortcomings on behalf of the organizers, but they’ve certainly made progress from their first foray into fashion two years ago in the same space (courtesy of the Delijani family) –- especially when it came to staggering the shows between two spaces within the venue and getting the shows off in a more timely manner.
Until Thursday, when the alphabet soup of DLAFW and COLA stage their events, BOXeight holds the de facto fashion week crown.
Which reminds us of something Dutch theologian Erasmus once said:  “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

-- Adam Tschorn and Melissa Magsaysay

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Photos from top: Jen Awad, David Alexander, Future Heretics and martinMARTIN, all at BOXeight on March 14. Credits: Adam Tschorn and Melissa Magsaysay / Los Angeles Times.

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