If you’re looking for a way to judge the success of NOLA Fashion Week, you could point to the debut of Libellule, the new label, rich with hand-appliquéed details, by Leigh Reveley and Crickett Lapeyre.
Or you could look at the clever fabric manipulation — quilted leather trims, hand-smocked collars and swaths of silk printed with a black-and-white photograph of Canal Street’s Greenwood cemetery — worked into Amanda deLeon’s dark and moody collection.
Or you could point to the local buyers from Perlis, Abeille NOLA and Hattie Sparks boutiques who filled the second row at the Joy Theater to catch sweet local label Jolie & Elizabeth get a little rock and roll attitude, backed up by a live performance from the Royal Teeth band.
Every time NOLA Fashion Week seemed to reach its high point, I was delighted by some new detail or a refined new approached that illustrated how our local design scene is evolving.
DeLeon hit the nail on the head Thursday night after her sharp showing of 21 looks. “We’re not a joke,” she said, backstage as models shimmied out of dresses. “Designers here are working really hard, and we’ve got talent.”
The evidence of that talent was apparent to anyone who got a close look at the clothes,
In a concise presentation of 13 looks — among them an appliquéed, cap-sleeve dress, a jaunty capelet and a flowing, moss-green goddess gown — Libellule (French for dragonfly) impressed both in its sophistication and its well-edited approach. For a first collection, here was a polished stone, rather than a diamond in the rough.
Using vintage patterns, Reveley and Lapeyre picked traditional silhouettes to provide a familiar canvas for showing off their love of hand embellishment, as well an ability to have great fun with fine fabrics, from cashmeres and silks to a wool-silk-linen blend.
It should be no surprise that Libellule’s freshman collection is a standout. Reveley is not a novice to the needle arts. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and a professional textile conservator, she’s been a regular at local design competitions, and won the Worn Again recycled fashion show a few years back, turning a bag of horrid castoffs into an elegant evening gown.
Reveley and Lepeyre got the idea to join forces when Reveley was restoring Lepeyre’s bridal veil. Both former Carnival queens, the two women share “a love vintage silhouette, early Lanvin style and very detailed clothing,” Reveley said.
Such attention to detail came through in their appliques, which included an airy red maple tree formed of Vera Wang lace and affixed to an empire-waist sheath.
With helpful critiques from veteran designer Seema Sudan of LiaMolly, Lapeyre and Reveley narrowed their focus and their collection. “We wanted it to be very New Orleans, so wanted to do New Orleans plants. We did a resurrection fern; the capelet has Spanish moss; a skirt has the pattern of an acorn on it,” Reveley said.
DeLeon also mined the local landscape for inspiration, and found plenty of fodder in the cemeteries close to her home, as well as in John Boutte’s and Paul Sanchez’s song, “Foot of Canal Street.”
Playing with life, death and architecture themes, deLeon’s collection was a somber study in gray, black, white and crimson. White high-neck collars on dresses brought to mind a Karl Lagerfeld influence, while gold cross lapel chains added a grown-up goth touch.
DeLeon, a Jonesboro native who studied architecture and interior design at Louisiana Tech University, is a stickler for details and is talented with tailoring. One dress was constructed of layers of black leather, sewn like ruffles. To me, it brought to mind dark flower petals, but DeLeon described it as “scales.”
The standout of the show was a cemetery-printed silk gown, something I could imagine Angelina Jolie wearing to the Oscars, though it might have to be modified with a serious slit, if so.
DeLeon was one of the designers presenting during a four-hour, marathon night of back-to-back shows on Thursday evening. With events held at various galleries around the Warehouse District, the high-heeled crowd ambled over cobblestone streets, while models sprinted between venues. Keeping everything rolling and remarkably on time were the calm fashion week founders Nicholas Landry and Andie Eaton, who managed the backstage troops in a chic asymmetrical dress.
Showing at the American Institute of Architects space on Lee Circle was Matthew Arthur, a young designer whose work gets better every season. Arthur has a strong point of view, designing comfy clothes — knit jackets, long skirts, jersey sweatpants — for both men and women to wear lounging and clubbing. His charcoal gray, black and white collection was cohesive.
But the show’s staging distracted from the looks. Models walked out barefoot, with a single strip of tape around their feet. The women’s hair was held back in plastic wrap. Once in front of the crowd, the models took exaggerated slumped and hunched postures, as if terribly burdened by their clothing. The theatrics left me wanting to pull back their shoulders so I could get a better sense of the tailoring and drape.
More black and white, but with bright shocks of pink mixed in, continued the evening’s color theme at Andrea Loest’s presentation of her intricately seamed and patchworked dresses. Part of a “garment system” she created, each dress is a multi-layered piece, fitted in the bodice, with contrasting fabrics, stitching and textures. For fall, she incorporated deconstructed men’s suiting into the skirts, adding a hint of masculinity to the feminine silhouettes.
Earlier in the week, the fashion crowd congregated at the newly reopened Joy Theater for an event that was equal parts music concert and clothing presentation, with bands Royal Teeth, Big History and Baby Bee playing as models presented looks from Jolie & Elizabeth, Blackout by Ashlie Ming and Dope.
“I loved the live music. It made for a great show,” said Meg O’Reilly, owner of Abeille NOLA boutique on Oak Street.
O’Reilly carries Jolie & Elizabeth’s collection, so the event was a preview of what she can expect to see from the New Orleans-made, Southern-styled brand for fall.
“Their spring is really strong; people come in for their seersucker dresses,” she said of the work by designers Jolie Bensen and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey. “This show was a good way to see the direction they’re going for fall and see how it might fit in my store. And it was just fun.”
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