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CoLA Fashion Week's opening night

March 21, 2009 |  3:54 pm

It's been fun to see how all the events surrounding this season's hodge podge of an L.A. fashion week have panned out.

Last night marked the debut of CoLA Fashion Week, an "industry only" show that continues tonight at the Lady Liberty Building downtown. After aimlessly walking around the intersection of 9th and Los Angeles streets trying to find the CoLA entrance, I accidentally walked into "L.A. Fashion Weekend," then in front of a random step and repeat by the CAL Mart.

In my confusion, I also ran into four other CoLA goers who were as lost as I. Our determined group searched a little longer before being directed to a shady alleyway behind the New Mart building. The CoLA festivities took more than four floors of the building, which gave me mild college rave flashbacks -- minus the glow sticks and glitter. But the floor spotlights, long lines to the bathroom and lots of people in funky get-ups stopping in the stairwell to smoke a joint were right on track with those hazy party memories.

Up on the fifth floor were the actual runway shows, and to CoLA's credit, the runway, lighting track and seating were done really well and made for a pleasant fashion show watching experience.

Eksempel went first. I was told by CoLA staff that the line was Swedish -- it's actually Danish -- and the designer Pernille Winther was not there, just her contemporary collection of blousy tunic-length tops, color-blocked leggings and sporty, cropped jackets. It looked a lot like the first few seasons of Geren Ford -- simple, solid colors, tops to wear with leggings or skinny jeans.

Fremont designer Brittany Pham sent out 1940s inspired women's wear. Plaid caplets and matching high waist shorts, silk rompers and belted shirt-dresses were femme fatale-light. None of that film noir drama that makes '40s inspired clothing interesting.

Designer Devin Carlson's menswear was really strong and, most impressively, actually wearable, something we haven't seen too much of from L.A. designers who churn out toothpick pants and leather man skirts. The slim gray wool trousers, high-neck wool sweaters and black jackets with subtle biker detail would fit into any guy's wardrobe.

The "industry only" aspect didn't stop a party vibe from forming. The crowd certainly wasn't as motley as the one at Box Eight or even at past seasons at Smashbox. I spotted a lot of stylists, young designers, showroom sales people, media and style bloggers. Not a whole lot of buyers -- something to work on for next season.

--Melissa Magsaysay

For the record: A previous version of this post named only Brittany Pham as the designer of Fremont.  Pham designs women's wear and Devin Carlson designs the line's menswear.