Where was Paco Rabanne when Ukrainian designer Veronika Jeanvie needed him at her U.S. debut?
According to AP, Rabanne, whose experimental plastic and metal dresses in the `60s launched his decades-long career, was noticeably absent at Jeanvie`s headlining show Monday at Mercedes-Benz L.A. Fashion Week "because of a family emergency," said publicist Alexandre Boulais. He did not elaborate.
That unfortunately left the event, billed as "Veronika Jeanvie consulted by Mr. Paco Rabanne," without its iconic Spanish-French anchor, and cast the spotlight squarely on 28-year-old Jeanvie and her bright, bling-heavy and at times gaudy designs.
Top that off with the pressure of Jeanvie being the first Ukrainian designer to present a collection in the United States, according to the show`s publicists. Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley, designer Eduardo Lucero and musician Kelis all sat in the audience.
"It`s normal to be nervous, but today is going to be OK," Jeanvie told The Associated Press backstage at Culver City`s Smashbox Studios — her fast Russian translated through an interpreter.
She called Rabanne, who she met in Kiev during a fashion week two years ago, "my spiritual father."
"He is a genius, a big person in fashion, a good friend. When he sees my sketches he critiques them," said the designer, wearing her own checkered black and white hybrid floor-length skirt and short shorts.
Jeanvie first showed her new collection in Paris in January, but said she created a few more colorful dresses for her L.A. debut "for the celebrities."
Her inspiration was the ocean, sky and green plants she saw while on vacation in England and France, she said.
She was also influenced by Rabanne`s dresses made out of round metal discs, which created a buzz in 1966.
"I use both metal and soft materials like silk, a contrast showing that women are strong and soft at the same time," Jeanvie said.
With rock tunes blaring overhead, models strutted down the runway in towering heels and clad in an array of shiny fabrics, from silver and gold hot pants to a skintight gold bodysuit paired with a sort of chain-mail poncho.
Rabanne`s influence was obvious, from the blankets of linked silver hoops draped over simple shifts to a jingling, jiggling chain-mail bikini and a white skirt that seemed to be fashioned out of a towel, albeit lined with silver.
But while Rabanne`s fashion experiments — from paper dresses to sexy, futuristic costumes for Jane Fonda in 1968`s "Barbarella" — were explosively innovative 40 years ago, Jeanvie`s designs seemed overwrought.
A `70s-esque shimmering catsuit sported huge silky bell bottoms. A black thigh-skimming skirt and matching belly-baring top looked more Hollywood street than red carpet. One floor-length dress paired silver, sparkly fabric with clashing white lace.
Other dresses came in fluorescent pink, green, purple and blue, all accented by silver or gold.
Jeanvie fared best when she toned down the costume-y look.
A turquoise blue strapless cocktail dress filled out nicely with a voluminous skirt accented with white. Spangly diamond shapes patterned a shift with a shell top, something Kelis could pull off.
Even when Jeanvie walked down the runway at the show`s end, she wore a black dress with a rounded, sculptured skirt unflattering to her slender frame.
Still, the designer looked more than happy to be a dominant part of L.A. Fashion Week, which will also feature fall collections from "The Hills" star Lauren Conrad, the Pussycat Dolls, Nicky Hilton`s Nicholai line and L.A.-based edgy men`s wear label Elmer Ave.
"Los Angeles is a city of sun, positive energy, a city of dreams," Jeanvie said, grinning.