This past weekend, over 12,000 shoppers descended upon hundreds of talented local designers & artisans at the California Apparel Mart for the second annual Spring Unique LA show. This event just gets better and better each time. I also went in December and was impressed, but this time it seemed like the designers showing were crafting with higher quality than last time. Also, the previous show had a separate (and not exactly easy to find) room for eco vendors.
Last season, I noticed that plenty of designers in the main room could also qualify as eco, and when I asked one why she wasn’t down there, she told me she’d rather be in the big room. Well, for this show, all designers were together, and really it seemed the majority were eco! I tried to limit my stops to the booths showing environmentally and/or socially responsible products, but there were so many! It was great to see such a strong interest in using recycled, reclaimed, or organic materials.
I waited until Sunday afternoon, knowing it would be less crowded, and was rewarded with plenty of time to chat with designers and find out more about their lines. It was also great to see registered buyers signing in at the desk downstairs, making it clear that retailers are interested in seeing what Unique LA had to offer.
Dresses, Cowboy Shirts and Kid’s Clothes, Oh My!
Chemline was my favorite of the eco brands, as they are doing something extremely important- making fashion-forward eco clothing that works. As in, you can wear it to work. If I see one more organic cotton t-shirt, why I’m gonna… And that was another great thing about Unique LA. There were very few t-shirt vendors. Real fashion talent does not express itself on a rectangular jersey canvas, but in the complexity of entire outfits, and Chemline has mastered this. I spoke with the designer Avery at length about her standards. She is deeply committed to working with the most socially & environmentally responsible textile vendors she can find. Lucky for her, the Global Organic Textile Standard database and textile reps like Pick Natural make it fairly easy to find them.
Another favorite is African Cowboy, and not just for the name, I swear. Designer Mobolaji flies to Ghana and works closely with carefully selected artisans to design gorgeous batik fabrics. These are not your grandma’s batiks, they’re completely original and modern. He features his styles on a range of models, proving that these bold styles look fabulous on anyone. The custom-printed fabrics are then cut & sewn here in Los Angeles. African Cowboy also engages their customers better than many designers, even inviting their Facebook fans to a house party on the beach in Venice!
Stella Neptune prints and embellishes vintage cashmere sweaters with really cool designs, making them totally hip and current. While I find it hard to part from my Burning Torch recycled cashmere sweaters, these are much cheaper because they’re not completely reconstructed. Despite the vintage fit, they’re still uber-cool.
Hankie Babies Designer Daria turns old handkerchiefs, ties and tablecloths into adorable kid’s dresses. She uses cotton jersey for the tops to make them easy to climb in and out of and comfy for a range of girl’s sizes. The dresses were so sweet I wanted to snatch them up for all my friends’ girls!
Tomorrow I’ll write about the accessories (including the fab zebra fanny clutch Stella Neptune designer Eva Kisevalter is modeling!), jewelry and other cool stuff they had. Also, join their Facebook group to stay involved.
*That’s “Into the Real World”