Fashion Week El Paseo Opens with a Decidedly California Vibe

The opening night of Fashion Week El Paseo featured three designers who live in the state and offer different takes on its aesthetic.

Tienlyn Jacobson Current Digital, Fashion & Style, Fashion Week El Paseo

Designer Zandra Rhodes provided a flower-power ending to the opening night of Fashion Week El Paseo in Palm Desert.

No matter the trends, California has always stood out with its individual flair, asserting a style known for being eclectic, laid-back, and playfully elegant. It goes well with the Golden State’s inclusiveness and lifestyle, which attract residents and visitors from all over the world.

That winsome spirit made for the perfect theme for the opening night of Fashion Week El Paseo. “California Unzipped” featured three designers who live in the state and offer different takes on its aesthetic.

Before the runway show, renowned photographer, blogger, and author Ari Seth Cohen signed copies of his books, Advanced Style, which focuses on “the sartorial savvy of the senior set,” and his latest, Advanced Love, celebrating love “bound by neither the constraints of age or time.”

VIDEO: Watch the entire "California Unzipped" show and come back to watch every runway show live or after at

The runway portion opened with Emil Gampe, whose collections have appeared on the red carpets of the Emmys, Grammys, and the Oscars. While Gampe lives in Los Angeles, he honed his craft all over the world, working in New York, Vienna, London, where he studied at Central Saint Martins.

Amid booming symphonic music, masked models theatrically glided down the runway with looks ranging in inspiration from operatic to showgirl. Historic and global references had a futuristic twist of noir. At first the capes, sequins, feather and fringe appeared too bold for the everyday woman, but beneath them were decidedly wearable and elegant gowns with plunging necklines, column silhouettes, and feminine touches. A highlight of the collection was a fully feathered, all-white look with a cinched waist and full skirt. Reminiscent of the most glamorous Little Bo Peep there ever was, the dress almost came across as understated in its cohesive melodrama.



Designer Emil Gampe wowed the crowd with his extravagant collection.



Emil Gampe has had his designs on the red carpets of the Emmys. Grammys, and Oscars.

Then came Roger Canamar’s devastatingly beautiful collection. As a self-taught master-draper and fashion world veteran, the designer is a quintessential Californian, born and raised. His label is made directly in the United States by a small group of artisans and exudes easy West Coast elegance.

The sleek yet flowing and diaphanous collection drew applause for its feminine lines and light and airy shapes, which looked both ladylike and carefree. Lettuce hems, sheaths, trenches, shell tops, sheer backs, billowing sleeves, and palazzo pants to-die-for peppered the catwalk, each one more wearable than the last. In fact, some of the best pieces were the simpler ones, such as LBDs or trouser sets accompanied by a shock of color, as they highlighted Canamar’s precision detail and draping. It’s the type of collection that both feels relevant in the modern world but is simultaneously guaranteed to stand the test of time.



Roger Canamar's designs highlighted his precision detail and draping.

U.K. transplant Zandra Rhodes, a major player in the new wave movement that put London on the map in the 1970s, closed the night. She has dressed Diana, Princess of Wales; Jackie Onassis; Elizabeth Taylor, and even Freddie Mercury. The venerable fashion editor Diana Vreeland featured Rhodes in Vogue.

The collection sent a bolt of energy through the crowd. The most playful looks of the night, they married an 80s attitude with 70s references, complete with knee high socks, tiered and handkerchief dresses, trumpet-flared pants, embroidery, and accordion-pleated everything. There were plenty of fun prints to behold, from worldly prints to a smattering of leopard and plenty of cacti. Also noteworthy was the cheeky addition of pink locks accenting the models’ hair — a direct reference to the designer’s own hot pink coiffure.


The movement and color of Zandra Rhodes' designs energized the runway.



The movement of the garments energized the runway and drew cheering in lieu of the standard silence or light applause.

It was the finale, however, that stole the show. Models approached the end of the runway, faces lit with smiles, dressed in arguably the most beautiful dresses from the line — printed kimonos in different bold colors (including one in gold). Their hands were filled with rose petals, which they threw into the air — a joyful celebration of both the collection and opening night of Fashion Week El Paseo.



Designer Zandra Rhodes provided a flower-power closing to opening night.

All three designers participate in a trunk show today from 10:30 a.m. to 2 pm. Tonight’s runway event will see models wearing fashions by Victor Tung and walking with rescue dogs from Animal Samaritans. The cocktail party starts at 5 p.m., and the fashion show and auction begin at 6.

Visit for tickets and more information.