Fashion talks; it can scream, coyly suggest, banter. It can draw parallels, emphasize a shift in the world, and push it forward. It can also be a source of joy, confidence, and creativity. In Los Angeles, this came into clear focus during Los Angeles Fashion Week, a twice-yearly event held by tradition at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The three-day affair brought together an impossibly wide range of styles on the same strip of brightly illuminated runway: the dramatic elegance of Puey Quiñones, the thunderous color of Jimmy Paul’s work. Each told a vastly different story through cut, color and fabric. Each collection, a different expression. Each, a different emotion.
But in their differences, there’s connective tissue. Common threads, if you will. This year, sustainability was at the center of the conversation. Long a topic of fervent discussion in the industry, now more than ever, consumers are looking to designers and brands for their ethical credentials. From Humans to MM Milano, designers at Los Angeles Fashion Week drove the point of reuse, reduce and recycle home in a way that felt like more than just tick-box exercise. They also highlighted the importance of representation, celebrating various ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexuality, and championing diversity of size and skin color on the runway. Taken together, these works represented a snapshot of the way we interact with fashion today — and what we demand of it.
But this year’s shows did something else, too. They created worlds for us to immerse ourselves in, if only for five minutes at a time. Demobaza cast us to a barren, futuristic moonscape. Andrew James sent us to a post-apocalyptic, scorched-earth fantasy, and Jimmy Paul reminded us of honeyed childhood dress-up dreams. Every one of these collections opened a window to parallel universes that transported and moved us emotionally. So, in case you missed fashion week, here are some standout moments.
Photography by Jonathan White
Being immersed into his world, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that this was Andrew James’ debut show. Start to finish, the looks he sent down the runway showcased the depth of his vision and deftness at translating it into fabric. Here, we were plunged into a post-apocalyptic, raw world where fiercely-clad models served as worthy warriors. Within this sci-fi-esque collection (which Andrew calls “Variant Mutation”), we saw body-conscious dresses and bodysuits. Prints sliced, cut out and patched together into oversized genderless coats and shirt-pants combos. A sprinkling of leather. Accessories played their part in amping up the potency of the fantasy; fuzzy purses and statement hats added pops of colors in shades of lime green, purple and yellow. Models carried oddities like a mechanical robot dog. “We were thinking from an otherworldly standpoint, and of this person that finds these treasures that were tossed aside,” Andrew said, later adding, “I’m all about pop art, and not afraid to use color or prints.”
After several consecutive years dominated by drama by way of puffed sleeves, seeing this maximalist trend on a catwalk shouldn’t come as a surprise. And in anyone else’s hands, it probably would’ve ceased to impress. But Filipino designer Puey Quinones, who splits his time between Manila and Los Angeles, did something very special here. He brought it to the runway in a way that felt entirely new, and above that, meaningful. Inspired by iconic opera soprano Maria Callas, the collection catapulted us to a different era — one of grandeur and deep romance. As Barbara Streisand’s “Losing My Mind” swelled in the background, the sleeves got even bigger, even more voluminous. One cream-color dress exaggerated the bell-shaped sleeves of the terno dress, the national dress of the Philippines. “Everything is dramatic,” Quinones says. “It’s all about opulence — floating with artistry and passion.”
Enter the world of the cosmopolitan, city-dwelling woman — one that feels entirely of-the-moment. Femgraphy, helmed by designer Carolina Armenta, made good use of this past year’s most persistent trend; the sexy cutout. There were showings of well-tended skin, with slits that went up the entire side of the dress. A black, body-hugging leather dress with one bra cup rendered in white — a nice touch of asymmetry. Even more well-placed cutouts and an interplay of leather, feather and lace. Hair was slicked back in a sexy, high-shine wet look, and funky gold accessories amped up the unapologetic, sexy allure. And equally as important, it was the attitude these clothes imprinted on the models: dark, soignée and utterly in control.
It started with a Versace print dress that LA-based designer Troy Scott and his team of three recycled and wove into the batting for their first piece. The rest just flowed. “The line was heavily inspired by myself wearing windbreakers all the time,” Scott said. “So we wanted to create dresses and casual wear that would be of that puffer material.” Puffers, typically reserved for cold-weather outerwear, is hardly the emblem of “fashion.” But through fresh silhouettes, Scott reinvented the winter fabric into fun, current-year dresses and sets. Hemlines were short; tops were abbreviated or worn open, allowing flashes of skin. In the background, a camera brushed past familiar Los Angeles landscapes, flashing in acidic colors. The collection’s palette felt plucked from the very same place — blues, pinks and tangerines of a typical California sunset. Even the crowns of the models’ heads, dusted with glitter, caught light. Welcome to the West Coast.
Hailing from Amsterdam, Jimmy Paul mined his childhood when dreaming up the collection during lockdowns, pulling together leftover materials, deadstock fabrics, and pieces from older collections. The result was a candy-colored, rebelliously saccharine collection that felt, to put it simply, downright fun. Feather was used not only for statement-like pieces but as an accent on hats, collars, cuffs and trimmings.
Models came to play in highly eclectic looks made of high-octane technicolors, wearing pretty much every bright, primary hue on the color wheel. Think: A 70’s-inspired floral mini paired with embellished opera-length gloves and a bucket hat dripping with beads. A rainbow-colored fuzzy coat, cinched at the waist with a wide silver belt. The stuff of childhood dress-up dreams. Tinsels in hair, models walked down the runway to the beat of perky Europop (by Dutch DJ and producer DJ Paul Elstak). It made the audience feel child-like, carefree and oh so blissful.