Slouchy tank dresses in funky prints, leggings with ornate cut-outs up the front and flesh-colored rompers cinched with braided sashes “”mdash; these are the fashions of Leyendecker.
On Oct. 29, the Los Angeles-based brand showed its spring and summer 2010 collection at Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion runway show at the Peterson Automotive Museum alongside four other rising designers.
UCLA alumna Jessica Moss, who created the line with partner Lisa Guajardo, graduated six years ago with a degree in general theater studies and a specialization in costume design but entered the school as an acting student.
“I actually found that my background as an actor was really a huge asset as a costume designer,” Moss said. “I knew … how to use the clothing as an acting tool. A costume has a very specific purpose, time and place that is relevant to a larger story. Fashion can also have a purpose, time and place ““ the story is just a little more subtle.”
With this new collection, Moss and Guajardo said they’re channeling the ’80s and early ’90s, drawing influence from iconic offbeat pop star Grace Jones and the futuristic dystopia of “Mad Max” movies.
“We were really inspired by this concept of different eras having their own individual visual concept of the future. The collection is about tribalism and primitivism but with the contrast of the idea of future and a clean beauty,” Moss said.
Almost every look features knots or braids, bringing a youthful vibe to an age-old craft. They also paid close attention to the way fabric hangs on the female form, as in their scarf wrap dress.
“It’s this sexy one-shoulder dress that looks like the girl wrapped a giant scarf around her body,” Moss said. “We love the loose ends kind of hanging, as if it could unravel.”
Moss’ interest in fashion started when she found herself scouring stores for clothes she wanted and turning up empty-handed. So she taught herself to sew on a machine her grandmother gave her and started making her own clothes in high school. She would make the item that she had been searching for in stores and then see the trend in magazines a year later.
“It used to annoy me, until I realized that I was naturally on a designer’s clock and that this annoyance could be a very useful skill,” Moss said.
Shortly after graduating from UCLA, she moved to Hollywood, where she met Guajardo, her neighbor. The pair formed an immediate bond, and their collaboration followed.
“Eventually we realized we were both designers, and four years ago we decided to finally do it and start a label,” Moss said. “One year later we shipped our fall 2006 collection to select boutiques around the country.”
Today the line is sold in stores such as Barney’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Ron Herman and Fred Segal.
Aimee Sorek, fourth-year art student and president of Fashion and Student Trends at UCLA, attended the show on Oct. 29 and found Leyendecker’s style to be both fresh and accessible.
“I love how they took really simple silhouettes and fabrics and created really interesting pieces,” Sorek said. “I love the fringe, I love the printed dresses, the loose fit on top is so modern, and I’m obsessed with the see-through leggings. I think they’re genius.”
Leyendecker’s looks are an aesthetic produced from the fusing of Moss and Guajardo’s diverging sensibilities.
“(Guajardo) has more of a street style, more edgy and artistic, I’m more classic and bohemian,” Moss said.
Rather than clash, working together has enabled them to make clothes they both love.
“We have a really great design process. There’s always a dialogue,” Moss said.
After four years of designing together, Leyendecker’s new collection reveals their confidence to go with their instincts while maintaining a commitment to their consumers.
“The line has always been about bringing a sense of the avant-garde to the masses. We have been refining the “˜push-pull’ between interesting and marketable,” Moss said.
This was their first runway show, and Moss said being selected was a big honor for her and Guajardo.
“Gen Art is a great fashion force in Los Angeles, so to be a part of it is really thrilling. The exposure is also very exciting,” Moss said.
The 12th annual Fresh Faces in Fashion presentations showcase emerging talent in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami. Leyendecker stood out to Sorek because of the collection’s universal appeal.
“I kept thinking, “˜What girl wouldn’t want to wear that?'” Sorek said.