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Looking Good: Fall 2008 Fashions on View:

It appears that Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios is truly taken seriously by New York.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the Orthodox show, where Vogue Editor-at-Large André Leon Talley sat front row, sunglasses on, hard-to-read expression on his face.

Celebrity watching is fun at fashion week, though once the lights dim and the models start strutting it’s all about the clothes.

Kicking off the week was Imasu by Kelly Nishimoto, which included cozy sweaters, large velvet bows, and silk dresses with beautiful weaving. The only downside, though, was one piece that seemed like something a court jester would wear during the Renaissance.

The most fun, lively, and heartfelt show was undoubtedly the Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show. How can anything with such a name be anything less? Unlike most shows, where the designers are completely out of sight until the very end when they take their customary runway walk, the handful of designers that made up Green Initiative all sat in the front row, watching their own and each other’s creations saunter down the runway.

Each segment of the Green Initiative show began with a different type of dancing. Eco-friendly clothing highlights included ornate brocade coats by Lady Muse; two adorable young children wearing 100 percent organic cotton Andira Rain Tees and owning the runway; M the Movement’s hip, casual, and comfortable pieces; lilikoi’s soft hand-printed t-shirts, sweaters, and dresses; Vintage China’s amazing couture dress made of denim, with a long, flowing train; and René Geneva’s magnificent corsets, including a corseted dress (perhaps a non-traditional colored wedding dress?) that was as much a work of art as it was an item of clothing.

The designers who participated in the Green show all share not only a love of fashion, but a commitment to creating garments that are ecologically sound with proper attention (and salaries) paid to workers.

Samora’s show, entitled “A Modern Interpretation of the Sophisticated Woman” featured dresses, skirts, cropped jackets, and sweaters crafted from tweed and wool as well as chiffon and silk. There was even an updated version of a jumpsuit!

Sparkles, bows, dresses for a special night out, and upswept do’s were the rage at Julia Clancey.

In a touching tribute to her mother, Farah Angsana wrote in her program: “You gave me love. A love that mother gives unconditionally…I dedicate this show as an opportunity…let me love shine on you eternally.” The show, called “Goya’s Tango,” featured striking couture gowns, made of satins, chiffons, and silks in vivid greens, reds, and blacks. Swarovski crystals, sequins, and exquisite draping added beauty to the collection.

Together, designers Sophia Coloma and Marissa Ribisi created their imaginary young, hip girl-about-town, Whitley Kros, which is also the name of their clothing line. Vivid prints, bright colors, checks, and even a large zebra across the front of a pair of white jeans, the clothes were fun and truly wearable for different body types. And, as an added plus, the show had a seamless soundtrack, the benefit of Ribisi being married to musician Beck.

Many young designers participated in the nearly two-dozen shows at Smashbox’s Culver City location. At age 24, Nicky Hilton launched her hi-end Nicholai collection, having launched her Chick line way back in 2004. The Lauren Conrad Collection, created by the 22-year-old reality television star, was there as well. At the other end of the spectrum, renowned designer Paco Rabanne – whose career goes back to the mid-60s – collaborated with Veronika Jeanvie on her Smashbox debut.

The next Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will be held in the fall, when the spring 2009 collections will be shown. Though it’s impossible to predict what state our topsy-turvy world will be in by that time, it is probably safe to say that at Smashbox there will be beautiful creations, up and coming designers, long-limbed models, and fashionistas proving once again that Los Angeles fashion is here to stay.

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