Designer Launch Pad Fashion Show

My first event of the new year kicked off at the California Market Center during LA Market Week. The Designer Launch Pad Fashion Show was a new addition to the Focus Tradeshow, which took place on January 16th. Before the show, I made sure I had a spot right smack in front of the runway. I chatted it up with fellow photographers and my friends Houstina Summers and Leondra Quinones before the show began.

The show (showcasing S/S 2010 collections) started on time, starting with sexy yet simple swimwear by Anahiblue. The name, “Anahiblue” comes from the name of a Persian water goddess.The suits were in bright, solid colors; which designer Michele Sparks says was a big theme: color…Color that resembles tropical vegetation. Sparks was also inspired by famous female personalities; which is why she chose to name the suits accordingly: Ava, Dita, Nadja and Nikita. Her last inspiration is the woman who loves to wear designer apparel on a daily basis, but unfortunately comes up short when shopping her designer swimwear. “I design for the fashion savvy woman whose body is maturing, but my aim is to still keep her feeling feminine and sexy without revealing too much. I am also a big advocate on providing extra padding, shaping and camouflage where needed to bring out her best possible shape,” says the designer, who has had experience in very market, but feels that there is much more possibilities with swimwear. With that being said, Michele hopes to explore different facets of the swimwear market. She ‘wants to change people’s perception of what swim is and get a seasonal dialogue going on about what it could be.’ Anahiblue ‘is geared toward women who leave their eighteen year-old bodies behind, but are very fashion conscious…and is about high fashion, support, shaping and clever camouflage to best out of a woman’s shape.’ For more information, check out www.anahiblue.com or email Michele at sparksm@mac.com.

The next collection uses geometric concepts and the artistic theories of Calder and Brancusi. Let me introduce Camelia Skikos Collection. Camelia Skikos, designer by way of Romania,London and San Francisco was experimenting with duality. According to Skikos, “…from strict cuts and sculptural shapes to soft and draped, using contrasting fabrics like silk and leather, soft and hard, shiny and matte, this collection is dedicated to capturing a woman’s duality, whether it is sensual and mysterious or strong and feminine. The detachable leather pieces offer the illusion of strength and lend the wearer a sense of versatility.” I loved her collection in that it was reminiscent of the 1960’s bright mod style. Check out this fab California brand at www.cameliaskikos.com for more information.

This next designer drew her inspiration from watching too much, ‘Gossip Girl.’ I give you- DustieDoll Clothing. It all started when Dustie Smith was given a ‘Sew Perfect’ at an early age; then at age twelve, she was inspired to start designing clothes after watching “Pretty in Pink.” Since then, Dustie created her clothing company, “DustieDoll Clothing”, which has evolved into selling at boutiques such as: Kitson, Bloomingdale’s and Fred Segal; along with being seen on many celebrities. Dustie showed tees/tanks, dresses in black, white and striped, with jewel, chain and sequin embellishments. They were paired with shorts, ripped jeans and skirts that were also embellished with chains. DustieDoll Clothing was designed to feel comfy, but also be very “fussy.” They have recently been featured in Nylon and Style Watch (part of People magazine). Dustie hopes to keep growing the company in size every year and she’s planning on giving portions of the profits to refugees outside of Burma and Russian orphans. To get the scoop on Dustie Smith and DustieDoll Clothing, go to www.dustiedoll.com.

Twenty-one year old Jazmin Whitley-designer of the SoCal label, Li Cari, had recently presented her S/S 2010 collection “Decades” at the Project Ethos House of Blues event. She showcased a few of those pieces in the Focus show. A couple of my favorite pieces was the blue strapless frock made in raw silk (and was featured on the cover of California Apparel News) and the blue silk bolero, white silk shirt with blue roses and yellow cuffed shorts ensemble. Li Cari is a favorite among celebrities, such as: Aimee Teegarden, Hanna Beth, Christina Ricci and Jamie Pressly. For more information on Jazmin and Li Cari, go to www.shoplicari.com or befriend her on Myspace or Facebook.

This designer hails from Manhattan, by way of FIT and Jersey and having just been in business for a year, is already creating a buzz in the industry. Her name is Marissa Erskine and her company is Rissa. Her collection was based on a painting of an Asian watercolor butterfly. The clothes were very flowy and whimsical, resembling the movement of the butterfly. She used 3D butterfly appliques, lapels, 3D petals and still manages to keep the classic silhouette because she feels that that extenuates the female form. What set’s Rissa apart from other labels is that the Rissa consumer is the quintessential quirky girly-girl who is fashion forward and artistic. Think ‘Gossip Girl’ (Blake Lively) meets Rachel Bilson meets ‘Sex in the City’ (if the women were younger.) The contemporary line also features trademarked “Rissa Necklaces” as well- they are hand knitted/braided necklaces and scarves that are attached to blouses. Her price points vary from the low end of $150 for blouses to the higher end of $300-400 for necklaces, $450-650 for dresses and $500-650 for sweaters. For more information on Rissa, go to www.lovelyrissa.com or contact her at (609)468-1792.

Za Za Zsu designer Sahar Hersal also recently presented her “Sunday Sexy” collection during the Taylrz Joynt Boutique grand re-opening and the VVV Group’s “Fashion for a Cause” show. Her dresses were simple yet elegant. Perfect for a dinner out, a night on the town or, according to Hersel, a Sunday, because “Sundays are all about being effortlessly cool and strikingly sexy…” To get in touch with Hersel, go to www.ZaZaZsu.net or become a fan on Facebook!

The last designer to present, Althea Harper, was of Project Runway Season Six fame. Harper, an alum of Cincinnati School of Design and Central Saint Martins became a contestant of Project Runway in 2008, following graduation. She was one of the three finalists to present her collection at Bryant Park and was selected as first runner-up. Following Project Runway, she became part of the Tory Burch design team while also starting her company. Althea Harper was founded in April 2009 and Althea showcased her first collection during New York Fashion Week this past September and will be showing again this February. According to Harper, “Althea Harper is known for a cutting edge style that combines both tailoring and draping to silhouettes appear strong and beautiful.” Harper’s collection that she presented at Focus represented the true nature of assimilation. “Particular interest in the Old West and the women that were forced to become as tough as men and adapt to the laws and land of the environment, including the surrounding culture of the Native Americans who had claimed the land for centuries. A mix of tailoring and drape, unique combinations of fabric and rare uses of color and print are evident in this collection, highlighting the struggles and triumphs inherent in the process of assimilation, much like the pioneering women of yesteryear, there is a strong sense of the needs of women and their inherent strength in today’s culture,” explains Harper. The designer would like to be a household name design company and would like to be represented on the contemporary floors of all major department stores, as well as having a store of her own. She also hopes to branch out to menswear and accessories. For more information, as well as contacting Althea, go to www.altheaharper.com.

SPECIAL THANKS: Frances Harder of FBI (Fashion Business Inc.), Joanne Lee, Leila Baboi, Fashion Business Inc., California Market Center, Focus Apparel & Accessories Show, Jason’s Wine and Spirits, TNT Make-Up Agency, Jacqueline Umof, Erin Humphrey, Oscar Rodriguez, Chelsea Matthews, Deborah Levine, J, Felix Salzman of LookbookLA.com, Grace Chan of Grace Models (www.gracemodelmanagement.com) and Susan Costa of WCM (www.worldcoastmanagement.com)

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