The cold weather that hit Los Angeles this weekend didn’t seem to put a damper on the holiday shoppers that flocked to the California Market Center in search of last minute gifts at the first annual Unique Los Angeles gift and design show. The show boasted over 200 vendors, as well as booths by the LA Weekly and Myspace Music. There were drink promotions by Izze, Bossa Nova and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I had a chance to sit down with the founder of Unique Los Angeles, Sonja Rasula. She not only is the creator of this wonderful event, but she has a line of stationary that she was selling there as well. She developed the concept of having an independent designer show in later September of 2008. She wanted people to realize the value and worth of design. She wanted a modern, fresh way for people to shop, without having to shop at a mall.
I was also curious to see if the current economy has had an impact on the vendors and what her prediction for the consumers. Due to it being the end of the year, some merchants had items left over. Others were fine, however there were some stores that had to close in the past few months . This show was a great way to help them sell their extra merchandise and get their name out there. As for the consumers, the prediction is that people don’t have the money that they did a few months back, though there was something for very budget. I must add as a personal observation, that it is different from buying at a mall. Buying local means that you can meet the person(s) that make the products and there is a one-on-one relationship between the transactions.
There were a few designers that have celebrity status in the fashion industry and had booths at the show, such as Rojas, who recently was featured at the BoxEight shows during fashion week. Freddie Rojas is a men’s and women’s designer based in LA and does four collections a year. He chose to be amongst the vendors due to overstock and it’s a great way to promote his line. Among his signature pieces are tie necklaces-little bow ties and skinny long ties on a chain that both sexes can wear dressed up or down. This season, he updated the cardigan. One style with kimono sleeves, pockets and an elongated body. Another version is a draped body with no sleeves. Personally, I loved them both and was eyeing the men’s Mondrian printed tee, which would look great with leggings and boots. You can view his collections at www.rojasonline.com.
I also ran into Smoke and Mirrors designer, Emily Brandle, of Project Runway fame. She, along with business partner, Michelle Chaplain, started the line in late 2006. Ms. Brandle was on ‘Project Runway Season Five’ during the summer and fall. She wanted to include pieces (for the show) that would be good for the fall. One of the key pieces was a cute reversible flipside jacket. Her line is available online at www.smokeandmirrorsclothing.com.
Other fashion designers I thought were interesting were ‘Clothing of the American Mind’, an eco-friendly company that launched in 2004, the one year anniversary of the Iraq War. They sold tees at one of the LA rallies. COTAM raises money for other progressive organizations with the sale of their t-shirts. Some tees are connected to specific organizations, such as: HCLW and Unscrw America. There is a special tee with the slogan, “Love Across Barriers” designed by Project Runway contestant Jack Mackenroth. This tee was launched on December 1st, World AIDS Day. Most of their tees are made with polyester, spun from recycle bottles and organic cotton. Check them out at www.cotam.org. Two of my designer friends shared a booth at the show. Corrie Hill Sullivan, a children’s designer and Julia LoVan. This is Corrie’s second craft show. She has been interested in baby clothes and interiors since she finished college. After she moved to LA from Ireland, she has worked for several designers before started her line. She finds inspiration through color, fabrics and textiles. She believes that it’s important that each child has something individual and handmade. For more of her beautiful designs, go to www.corriehill.com. For my other friend, Julia LoVan, Unique Los Angeles is her first big show. Over the years, she has designed under different names, however, in July 2008, she started Julia LoVan Dresses. Her specialties are dresses, totes and handpainted tees. She also specializes in DIYing vintage pieces from the dollar sales at Jet Rag on LaBrea. Her totes, made from vintage fabrics are one of her best-sellers. She finds inspiration everywhere from junior-high kids and kids where she works to magazines and style.com; though her biggest inspiration is from God. Whenever she makes something, she prays a lot. She is currently working on getting one of her dresses mass-produced. Her prices points range from $50-60 for a tee to the low $100’s for when the dresses get mass-produced. For more on Julia, tune in to www.julialovandresses.etsy.com.
There were many jewelry lines at the show. A few that caught my interest were, Tiger Lily by Heather Gardner. Gardner is based in Malibu. Since Heather was not present at the show, I spoke to her assistant, Ally. She told me that Heather loves nature. She finds her inspiration in Malibu and nature. She loves making jewelry that is delicate and that women can wear. Her pieces are very versatile. They can be worn long or short or even in layers. Her pieces range from $60-200 and $65 for earrings. For more of her line, go to www.tigerlilycollections.com. Another line had some very cute handcrafted fruit necklaces. Go to www.juliabristowjewelry.com. At a booth that she shared with an Eco-Friendly company, jewelry designer Amy Annab, who created beautiful bracelets and earrings from gemstones and ornate wire-wrapping. She is reachable via www.myspace.com/namastecreations. Another booth had pop-art jewelry for sale. Product designer (as he likes to refer himself) Steven Shein loves to play with color, line and form. He sells globally and at Fred Segal. The line has a celebrity following and he is doing a collaboration in February with Toki Doki. His words of wisdom, “Fashion shouldn’t be taken too seriously…” Check out his fab line at www.shopstevenshein.com. The last line that caught my eye was Myfriendroze. Some wares in particular were the necklaces, bracelets, etc, made from molds of bubble wrap, which designer Rose Braunstein made. She made the cast and then made the pieces out of sterling silver. She loved popping the packing material as a kid. (Let’s face it, who doesn’t?) Her other inspirations were circles, which are never ending. You can reach her at www.myfriendroze.com.
In the midst of all the handmade goodness, I came across an oasis, known as The Body Bar. I then saw a sign beckoning customers with a “$25 massage.” I just had to stop by. I spoke to the massage therapist, Roxi and she told me that the massage was 25 minutes, basically $1 per minute. Knowing my budget was tight, I told her I would be back later. I thanked her and then walked away. After a few minutes, there was a tap on my shoulder. It was Roxi. She told me she spoke with her manager, Julie and since they haven’t had any customers yet, I could be the ‘guinea pig.’ I gladly accepted, knowing that my aching shoulders would thank me. Roxi did a fantastic job and when visit the Body Bar in Silverlake, I will ask for her. Before I left, I also received another perk. An eyebrow waxing by the fabulous Vivian. She was quick and the end result were two perfectly arched brows.
For the last leg of the journey, I would like to point out (despite this being a fashion blog) that there were also some great handbag, as well as photographers and all things kitsch. There was a booth with leather purses that have been seen on the arm of Hayden Panetierre and other celebs. The line is Tucker Paisley and was created by Tracy Franklin, who also founded www.stylechick.com with business partner, Kevin Tidwell. Stylechick.com is a great site to network with other fashionistas and industry insiders. And check out www.tuckerpaisley.com. There was an eco-friendly portion of the show, one booth in particular was Ecobooma, Inc. And just who is responsible for this line of environmentally conscious and extremely fashionable totes and tees? Ms. Hillary Danner. The company is 100% women owned and are geared toward manufacturing here in the States. As they want to support the country they live in. Danner, along with Maria Newman also have a parent company, Jenkins Jellies, which they make right at home on their stove and is of course organic. I had the opportunity to taste the mandarin marmalade and it was wonderful. Check out this great company at www.ecobooma.com.
Now I don’t know about ya’ll, but I am a fan of kitsch. Pamela Barsky’s booth was definitely the right fit! There were fabric buttons and fun little buttons with slogans and pictures of states. Journals on divorce and therapy and luggage tags that were uber-hilarious. Ms. Barsky designed everything herself. Go to www.pamelabarsky.com for more information! I also stopped by a booth run by Portland, Oregon photographer, Misha Ashton. She had prints, prints on woodblocks and abstract photo jewelry available. Her work is amazing, you must check out her site at www.mishaashton.com.
For more info on UNIQUE LOS ANGELES, check out www.uniquelosangeles.com. The next show is scheduled for May 2009. I want to extend a special thanks to the volunteers! You guys are awesome! I can’t wait to work with you again!!!!