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New Designers Launch L.A. Fashion Week

L.A. Fashion Week is unofficially under way.

The event begins Sunday, with 32 shows over five days at Culver City's Smashbox Studios. Celebrity favorites Sue Wong and Louis Verdad, and denim designers Evisu and Frankie B. are among those unveiling spring 2007 collections.

But the real kickoff to the week is Gen Art's "Fresh Faces in Fashion" show. With the city primed for its fashion fix, this annual celebration of emerging design talent gives local up-and-comers their first taste of the catwalk.

The ninth annual event Friday night transformed a massive hangar at the Santa Monica airport into a fashion mecca anchored by an 80-foot runway and dotted with cocktail bars and displays of accessories.

"We showcase talent through events," said Jennifer Egan, regional director of Gen Art L.A. "We link the artists with ... industry tastemakers that they would never have access to with a $100,000 showcase they could never afford."

A dozen designers _ hand-picked by Gen Art and its advisory board of stylists, buyers and editors _ were deemed this year's "Fresh Faces in Fashion."

Among them was Kerry Clarkson Valdivia, who showed her line of Marcello Toshi Creazoni shoes in a garden-inspired installation. Ankle-strap pumps in sweet pastel shades hung from a wooden gazebo beside drying roses.

Belts from Jack Rabbit, shoes by LD Tuttle and jewelry from Hollie Ten were also displayed in installations, while eight local designers brought their spring lines for men and women to the runway.

No theme united them. Each collection was distinct, which perfectly reflects the city they come from, Egan said.

"Within L.A. there's so much culture and it's so fragmented geographically," she said. "There really isn't a uniformity (among the designers). That's the brilliance of Los Angeles.

It's a place where men wear slim-fitted cropped pants cuffed at the calf, as they do in the Anzevino & Florence menswear line. They also showed skinny hot-pink jeans, shorts with peculiar gathers on the inseam and a double-breasted hooded jacket in a bold, black-and-white geometric print.

Slim fits for men were also part of the whimsical Fremont collection, which included pegged pants and fitted, straight-leg slacks. Womenswear looked to '70s-inspired styles, like an empire-waisted minidress, a tube-top pantsuit in sorbet shades and a zip-front romper with white button details.

Bubble skirts are still in according to designer Katy Rodriguez. A strapless navy and periwinkle belted dress featured bubble shapes on both top and bottom, while a flowery bubble frock was topped with a cropped, short-sleeve blazer.

Buttons played a part in nearly every piece in the Augustine line. From shirts to shifts, they decorated straps, brought in the waist and drew the eye to peek-a-boo cutouts that offered a surprise glimpse of skin.

Haverhill put skin in the spotlight with its sophisticated swimwear collection. Corset-like details glammed up a white one-piece and peacock-feather patterns added interest to more traditional cuts.

Crispin & Basilio kept things loose with flowing minidresses, most trimmed with bows and pockets. Texture was key as metallic fabrics mixed with satins and sheers.

Muted colors and asymmetric cuts defined the Ziji line. V-necks seemed off-kilter and trousers fastened on the side with big buttons and exaggerated panels.

Trasteverine embraced elegance with classic, feminine styles. Black dresses were silky and knee-skimming, jackets flowed into capes, and ruffles and pleats were plentiful.

Designers who get their start with Gen Art have gone on to participate in L.A.'s official fashion event: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios, one of the city's hottest photo houses. Verdad, who will show his collection on opening night Sunday, made his runway debut as a "Fresh Face" with Gen Art.

Famous fashion fans on hand for Friday's event included former NBA star Reggie Miller, singer Macy Gray and actress Garcelle Beauvais, who co-hosted the evening with Nick Verreos of TV's "Project Runway."
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