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Fashion Diary: Anthropologie plays Koi

June 5, 2009 | 12:11 pm

Gossip, first impressions, trends-in-the-making, celebrities and style setters. A regular feature by fashion critic Booth Moore.

Rage_koi2With all the highly publicized designer collaborations in retail right now (Matthew Williamson for H&M, Kate Moss for TopShop, Tracy Feith for Target and on and on), it's been interesting to watch Anthropologie's more quiet approach to the trend. In the past, the retailer has worked with Anna Sui and Rachel Comey, among others, but always without fanfare, with most designers creating lines under different names.

Now L.A. seems to be on Anthropologie's radar like never before. Jeweler Sonia Boyajian has designed a few pieces, including the adorable $98 “Flutter Fly” necklace here. And when I stopped by Koi Suwannagate’s studio earlier this week, she told me she will be launching a collection of knits for the retailer this fall.

Boyajian's name is mentioned in the description of the item online, but that's it. "We trust our customer will recognize the extraordinary pieces on her own," says company spokeswoman Sara Goodstein. "We believe she would be disappointed if she believed we pursued collaborations solely for the purpose of PR."

Hmmm .... Is it really the time to be doing anything quietly in retail? I'm sure working with Anthropologie is a welcome source of revenue for these designers, and I wish they would get a little more recognition for it. It's a win-win for both parties. For a designer to worry that a collection for a mall store would tarnish his or her high-end  business, well, that's just old thinking. I believe the Anthropologie customer would love to know more about designer collaborations. A good story behind a piece of clothing or jewelry only makes it more enticing.

But back to Koi. Despite having lost a few retail accounts from the economic fallout, she seems to be holding strong, selling at Barneys, Nordstrom and several boutiques around the country. (It's not so Rage_koi bad to have a small L.A. designer business these days.) She’s also been having success with her own e-commerce site. For fall,  I’ve got my eye on one of her cropped cardigans with three-quarter rosette-covered sleeves to wear at night over a dress. Other standout pieces? Unstructured wrap cardigans with geometric insets at the shoulders and sleek cigarette pants with stripes of cashmere running down the sides.

At her studio, where the shelves are stacked with vintage cashmere sweaters she uses for her designs, Suwannagate is in the throes of designing the spring collection, including some intriguing-sounding knit wrap pants. She may be one of the rare L.A. designers who actually has a harder time designing for warm weather, but I still can’t get her phenomenal collection from last spring out of my mind, with all of those pastel-colored dresses fluttering with chiffon butterflies.

And in other Koi news, she’s designed a great-looking T-shirt with black and gold embroidered feathers for Nordstrom stores, with proceeds to benefit the scholarship program of OCA Foundation, dedicated to advancing Asian Pacific Americans. You can get it for $60 here.

Photos: At top, a look from Koi's Fall 2009 collection. Credit: Stephen Shadrach. At bottom, a T-shirt by the designer to benefit the OCA Foundation. Credit: Nordstrom.

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