California style is many things. While that may read as a simplistic explanation, in a way, it has to remain simplistic to be able to encompass all of the incredible diversity this great state holds. However despite its rich span of eclecticness, there is a unifying sense of ease that carries through every aspect of California style. And it was this attitude that set the mood for a sartorial state of mind on opening night of Fashion Week El Paseo.
Getting there early to enjoy the scenery was a good idea, exchanging the setting sun and dimming horizon for pastel, candy-colored lighting, cocktails, and an ever-growing, bedecked crowd, out in all their finery.
Against the back of the space was the Eve’s Garden Exhibition, which, although small in space, offered a treat for the eyes and plenty to ponder. Made up of four fabric artists, the exhibit showcased upcycled sculptures in the form of dresses, utilizing materials that ranged from antique lace to paper maché to buffalo bladders to tumbleweed. The theme of the show (and of the sculptures themselves) was a celebration and support of the feminine life force in every aspect of the sense. Sixty percent of the dresses are actually wearable while the other 40 percent are considered more of a soft sculpture – but each comes with its own unique story and many reference specific women in history or in fables as inspiration.
Once seated in the tents, Michael Costello opened the show to a packed house. As a designer known for fierce, elegant creations, opening his debut swimwear line with a model in a cheeky one piece, complemented by an impish grin, surfboard, and bare feet, was a unanticipated move. The playfulness didn’t stop there, however, with grinning models tossing black beach balls into the audience as they walked, delighting and engaging the crowd. Paired with this gaiety, however, were more signature details of Costello, including daring necklines, cleverly placed mesh panels, hardware, straps galore, bling, and healthy dose of sex appeal.
Michael Costello had as much fun on the runway as his models displaying his designs.
While the arc of the show had plenty of 1980s references and what seemed to be a nod to the era of the supermodel, it was hard for the likes of Studio 54, Grace Jones, and Bianca Jagger not to come to mind, particularly as the show progressed and the suits began to accumulate shimmer, complemented by sheer stockings smattered with sparkles that sent an approving murmur throughout the tent. And actually, nearly every suit in the collection could happily have been worn as a bodysuit as well, going from poolside to party in seconds flat. A few slinky, high-drama jumpsuits fed seamlessly into the collection, with sophisticated drape-work conjuring up vibes of Martha Graham at a cocktail party.
But the best part of the show? The air of unapologetic elegance that seemed to levitate the entire collection above the catwalk, wafting contagiously into the crowd, cumulating to a standing ovation.
Trina Turk and Mr Turk were next, showing their looks side by side, complementing each other in a his-and-hers fashion with matching prints, before extending into different modes of inspiration. When previously asked how they define California style, Trina Turk and Mr Turk referred to a sense of optimism and freedom of expression, both of which shown loud and clear through their signature mix of bright colors, bold prints, and playful accessories. For the women, oversized, graphic florals donned everything from breezy kaftans and dresses, to sharply cut shorts and billowy blouses, as well as a few standout swimwear pieces. For the men, head-to-toe prints and brightly colors found their way to suits and swimsuits alike, pulled together through classic, slim cuts. But the real stars for the men were the kilt-like skorts and a Mandarin collared short one-piece jumper that were decidedly (and surprisingly) wearable.
While color is a mainstay for both Trina Turk and Mr Turk, the collection also included several black and white plaid looks for both men and women that will undoubtedly fly off the racks. Also notable were the oversized, Seuss-like straw hats that would make even Pharrell jealous.
Ranging from bold to flirty and mixing playfulness with impeccable silhouettes, both collections maintained a tasteful touch of camp, infallible zest, and a vibrant buoyancy that kept the crowd on their toes look after look.
• See a highlight vide of Trina and Mr Turk's collections on our Facebook page.
Mixing playfulness with impeccable silhouettes, both Trina Turk and Mr Turk maintained a tasteful touch of camp, infallible zest, and a vibrant buoyancy.
Ali Rahimi for Mon Atelier dislayed dresses that exuded a quiet awe.
Finishing off the night was Ali Rahimi for Mon Atelier, softly opening the show with subdued earthtones and stately silhouettes. Rahimi’s cues from couture remained clear from first to last dress, drawing as much from history as they did from drama. Romantic, precise, and exquisite, many of the dresses gave an air of modern-day time-pieces. References pulled from multiple eras. Sweeping V’s, deep scoop necklines, dramatic peplums and midi pencil and circle skirts harkened to the '50s, while other aspects referenced a fairy tale, near operatic feel that was only enhanced by the dreamy, melancholy soundtrack that carried the models down the catwalk.
From afar, the dresses gave a quiet kind of awe, but up close is where Rahimi’s sophistication truly shone through. Clever details such as intricate beading, purple peek-a-boo lining, and textured floral embroidery mixed with flat floral prints added an intelligent kind of sophistication, while more structured pieces reminded that femininity and power are not isolated, but are in fact symbiotic.
The biggest highlight of the show, however, was the slew of fiery red dresses that took over the second half, offering a different style for every kind of woman – reminding the onlooker of Rahimi’s personalized approach to each creation he makes.
• See a highlight video of Ali Rahimi for Mon Atelier on our Twitter page.
From fiery bustiers, embroidery, and fishtails to more minimalistic clean lines (and even a Jessica Rabbit look-a-like sequined number), each dress appeared to be the star of the show before being replaced with yet another star. The finale was a sea of red, punctuated by a final, otherworldly wedding gown that accompanied the designer for his final bow.
VIDEO: Watch the show from start to finish featuring the four designers.