Past and Future Open L.A. Fashion Week

The Associated Press
Monday, March 19, 2007; 1:03 PM

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Military-inspired collections that looked back and to the future opened L.A. Fashion Week, with Collection bebe offering edgy space-age designs and Dina Bar-El showing clothes that dripped 1940s glamour.

Their runway presentations Sunday helped launch the first of five days of fall fashion shows.

Collection bebe's ultramodern "War and Peace" collection was all about sharp lines, slick textures and sleek shapes, with the peace symbol as a graphic theme.

"It's war and peace in more of a literal sense, rather than the Tolstoy novel," designer David Cardona said before the show. "It's not period. It's a little toy soldier meets a sexy little girl and becomes a peaceful angel."

The star-studded front row at Smashbox Studios included bebe spokeswomen Eva Longoria and Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O'Connell (Romijn's fiancee), Virginia Madsen and Penny Marshall. Marshall said she was sporting some fashion of her own design: custom-made, blue-sequined Converse sneakers.

The bebe collection was heavy on leather, zippers and hoods in shades of khaki, black, red and army green.

A black-and-red leather minidress was trimmed with a hood and gold zippers, plus a scarf with a peace sign. Zippers and black leather made up the asymmetrical neckline of a silky floor-length gown, with another zipper cutting a thigh-high slit in front.

A futuristic red leather shrug with epaulets topped a tight black miniskirt. Army green got elegant with a taffeta "utility dress" and satin trench coat. Peace symbols popped up on the thigh of slim-fitting pants and punctuated the skirt of a white chiffon gown with bold, black lines.

Earlier, Bar-El brought the theme of her collection, "Burlesque," to life with a colorful show accompanied by a live jazz quartet and an opening strip tease by a Veronica Lake look-alike in a long burgundy gown.

Bar-El's fashions featured ladylike looks reminiscent of the 1940s. Bar-El said burlesque dancer (and Marilyn Manson ex) Dita Von Teese was her muse, adding that she was inspired by the model's photo book, "Fetish and the Art of the Teese."

"I ended up designing a whole collection around it," Bar-El said. "I don't even know what I created."

It was a varied collection of dresses steeped in classic glamour. Bar-El combined menswear fabrics with curvy cuts and feminine details, accessorizing outfits with long gloves and vintage hats. She embraced flowing trains and sweeping chiffon and interpreted military chic with a ladylike touch.

Businesslike pinstripes were evening-ready as a strapless dress, while lace edging and ruffle trim softened a checkered shift. Gowns came in an elegant palette of red, black, silver and bronze. One gunmetal Grecian style looked like it floated off the silver screen.

Bar-El gave the military look corset shapes and cap sleeves. There was an army-green gown with a matching taffeta trench coat, a navy satin sailor dress with rhinestone buttons and a white tuxedo gown topped with a trench coat and jeweled captain's hat.

Fashion Week continues through Thursday with shows including Ed Hardy, Imitation of Christ and Kevan Hall.

© 2007 The Associated Press