Fashion Diary: Catching up with Katy Rodriguez and Raven Kauffman
I had lunch with Raven Kauffman on Monday. She's gone from stylist to personal shopper to luxury lifestyle consultant (clients give her their black Amex cards, she spends their money). After years of consuming for others, Kauffman knows what's out there. So it's no surprise that her new line of high end handbags is pretty extraordinary, using feathers and beetle wings, metallic calf leather with leaf-shaped reliefs, and Art Nouveau laser-cut plates depicting nature scenes. Prices are high ($1,400 to $2,300), but the only other designer doing anything comparable is Bruno Frisoni at Roger Vivier. And his prices are higher.
So far, Raven Kauffman Couture has limited distribution -- at Maxfield and Des Kohan in L.A., Tender in Birmingham, Mich., Forty Five Ten in Dallas and a few other stores. Kauffman narrowly missed a major celeb dressing opportunity in Cannes . (Penelope Cruz was confirmed to carry one of her bags to an event but came down with food poisoning). Still, she's in no hurry, happy to stay small and focused until the economy picks up.
It's a sentiment that’s being echoed all over, especially in L.A., which has so many wonderful niche designers -- like Katy Rodriguez. I stopped into Resurrection to see her because I missed the opening party for the vintage store’s current photography exhibit and sale, "Venus Revisited: The Photography of Wingate Paine." Rodriguez is now focusing on what she does best — party clothes — and not worrying about filling out her collection with pants and jackets to satisfy editors and store merchandisers. Her clothes sell at boutiques throughout the world, including her own Resurrection stores in L.A. and New York, which she uses as laboratories to see what works.
The “fancy skirt” has become her signature piece — it’s super-short and poufy, almost 1980s poufy, and comes in a variety of fabrications from taffeta to cotton. I was dubious when I first saw it a few seasons back, but it looks great when the starlets rock it with a lot of bare leg (Rose McGowan wore one in green at last week’s "Terminator Salvation" premiere). And obviously, Rodriguez was onto something early, because now that 1980s look is everywhere, most notably in Louis Vuitton's upcoming fall collection.
To celebrate the exhibition that opened last week, Rodriguez made a version of the skirt (part of her limited edition Wingate collection) in a cigarette photo print taken from his 1966 pre-porn, pre-plastic surgery erotic photography book “Mirror of Venus.” The book is a series of portraits of young women that seems to capture the moment between the innocence of the 1950s and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It's a style world favorite, which explains why Kauffman, Tom Ford, Roman Alonso, Angelica Houston, Arianne Phillips and Lisa Eisner turned out for the party on Thursday. The book is “fashion without clothes,” explains Rodriguez, whose designs have a lot of Paine’s girlishness to them.
I always love to look at the collection of old books for sale at any given time at Resurrection, because it says so much about what's going on in fashion right now. In addition to Paine's book,there’s "Fiorucci" (1980) by Eve Babitz, "Jungle Fever” (1982) by famed art director Jean Paul Goude, with that fabulous picture of Grace Jones on the cover, and “The Ossie Clark Diaries” (1998). I could read them all in one sitting.
Don’t miss The Wingate exhibition. It runs through June 15 at Resurrection, 8006 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 651-2783.
The original prints — some of the few that still exist because Wingate burned his negatives before he died — and rare vintage copies of the book are for sale.
Top picture: Handbag by Raven Kauffman. Credit: Raven Kauffman. Bottom picture: Designer Katy Rodriguez (right) in a dress from her spring collection and Jessica Joffe in a Rodriguez skirt in a limited edition print using a Wingate Paine image. Credit: Wireimage/Donato Sardella.