Gen Art, the organization known for fostering new talent in fashion and film, stopped operations 18 months ago, but this season it made an impressive return to the L.A Fashion Week lineup.
Held at the former cathedral of St. Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday night, the event drew a slew of excited guests including a solid group of media and buyers to the gaggle of goody-bag-toting revelers who seem to pop up at every fashion-related event this time of year.
Zoe Saldana played host for the evening, mentioning in a pre-show chat that she is a huge supporter of new designers and is always on the lookout for new talent, not only to wear, but also for her website My Fashion Database (an “IMDb for fashion” she launched two years ago with her boyfriend Keith Britton).
“We want to continue to affiliate ourselves with organizations that support young, up-and-coming talent,” said Saldana, clad in an Antonio Berardi cocktail dress and Giuseppe Zanotti peep-toe pumps. “Everybody starts somewhere.”
For a few of the lines that showed Saturday evening, the runway that sliced through the middle of the former cathedral might be that “somewhere.”
The lines that showed at this season’s Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion were: We are Handsome, Dear Creatures, Odylyne, Chambers, 71 Stanton, Funktional, Stand and Deliver, as well as accessory lines Sticks and Stones, Iman Toloui, Plomo and Tomtom.
Standouts included a menswear line called Chambers that had a heavily grunge feel throughout seen mainly in varsity style jackets with leather sleeves and flannel button-downs tied around the waist of wax-coated skinny jeans. The medley of Nirvana songs that served as a soundtrack helped drive the early-'90s sentiment home. Contemporary women’s label 71 Stanton sent out a sporty lineup of racerback tanks, sheer paneled hooded jackets and paper bag waist shorts in summery colors like melon and off white. There was a simple ease to the entire line but a fresh and sporty twist that made it stand apart from the typical contemporary collection.
Stand and Deliver didn’t deliver the most original collection (a lot of black leather, spikes, studs and a dash of S&M) that carried the moody influence of Gareth Pugh mixed with the more youthful and darkly bedazzled look of Balmain. They even staged a mosh-pit fight between two male models, adding a punk attitude to the already overt rebellious references.
In the leafy courtyard of the space, several accessory lines presented their spring/summer 2012 collections. Each was impressive for their strong direction, focused and well-edited collections and understated approach to design. A Portland-based jewelry line called Sticks and Stones used natural materials like fossilized deer mandibles and woolly mammoth ivory to create cuff links, tie bars and pendants (which were hung on contrasting recycled red chain; some of the fancier pendants were speckled with tiny black diamonds). The pieces make as much sense for a department store as they would for an Exploratorium gift shop. “I’m a bit of a science nerd,” said Sticks and Stones designer Stephan Alexander. No kidding.
A locally based and made bag line called Iman Toloui showed just a few styles, including a satchel style bag and tote. The line is super simple, offering each style in just straightforward black or brown leathers, minimal hardware and easy, classic shapes.
Also L.A. based, Tomtom jewelry is made by architect-turned-designer Elena Coleman Howell who applies her architectural design skills to accessories. The result is angular pieces like triangle (shark tooth-shaped) pendants made from blue agate and hung on a bronze chain and rough cut crystals encased in chevron-shaped bronze.
It was nice to see Gen Art back on the scene, curating a solid lineup of promising talent and giving them somewhere to showcase and hopefully catapult their fledgling lines.
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Photos: Top: Looks from Chambers (left), Odylyne (middle) and Funktional (right). Second from top: Looks from We are Handsome (left) and Dear Creatures (right). Third from top: A look from 71 Stanton. Bottom: Models "fighting" in looks from Stand and Deliver. Credits: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times