HOLLYWOOD, California – After spending four years immersed in her award-winning film on Hawaiian culture, Hawaii A Voice For Sovereignty, Catherine Bauknight became interested in the culture in Los Angeles (LA) – and the lifestyle as expressed through fashion which was right in her own backyard. Fashion in LA is not only influenced by the city’s many cultures, these cultures have influenced fashion and lifestyle.
Bauknight recently finished shooting a segment of her latest film, Fashion and Culture in Los Angeles on location at Fashion Week in Los Angeles – asking designers, buyers, manufacturers, and others in the industry, “Why LA? Why do you choose to design, work, live, and play in LA?” Besides one obvious answer, “the weather is great,” some explained that they feel more free to design in the environment surrounded by ocean and mountains and they utilize the colors of nature in their fabrics. Others say they like the versatility of cultural influences, some believe LA “is a whirling vortex of new ideas,” while others like the influence of Old Hollywood film and glamor.
“Here we don’t just take fashion to the runway, but we wear it every day out on the street, “Bauknight discovered while shooting the film. Designers such as Gypsy 05 use 100% cotton or silk to make their designs comfortable and casual – their trademark. While the Hipster’s expression of fashion in Silver Lake may be particularly casual, the fashion in Burbank may be a little more upscale, with designs from BCBG MAXAZRIA or designs by Leon Max, founder of Max Studio. Coming to know people in the various LA communities reveals that most believe it’s just not necessary to identify one’s importance by overdressing. Being comfortable in your own skin is an acquired awakening that helps one better understand the “vanguard energy” and culture of “LA”
Bauknight says, “The key to LA fashion is dressing down, because people here want to fully enjoy their lifestyles. There may be an important morning meeting on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, and the day might end with a more casual meeting or dinner at the beach in Santa Monica. This transition might require elegant swimwear of a lightweight fast-drying fabric that transforms to dinner attire, which can be worn with a skirt overlay – as offered by designer Tracy James. James views it as a “‘swim and go’ philosophy.” Or one might be in Malibu in the morning and back in Pasadena for the evening – which can be a 20-degree difference in temperature, thus a routine layering of expressive clothing.”
Many LA fashion mavens are simply not pretentious and have learned to accept people for who they are. They consciously express their individual lifestyle through fashion. Some Los Angeles designers say that New Yorkers tends to criticize LA fashion because they cannot understand the casual LA lifestyle. But for most Los Angelenians, it’s all about California’s blue skies, beaches, and sunny days.
Fashion legend Sue Wong presented her latest collection at an exclusive presentation during the recent Los Angeles Fashion Week and Bauknight points to her as one of the more successful LA designers. Now available in more than 25 countries, Sue Wong’s exquisite fantasy designs are carried by Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Tootsies. With a large estate in Malibu and a tropical “beyond breath taking and extravagant” retreat on Maui, Ms. Wong’s primary residence is in LA at The Cedars – the fully-restored 17th-Century Venetian-style Hollywood landmark built in the 1920s for silent film star Norma Talmadge. In this elegant setting, Ms. Wong routinely hosts a profusion of LA and international fashion and art luminaries in her fantastic (in the true sense of the over-used word) residence. She says, “I’m in the business of glamour: of creating it, of selling it; I’m immersed in it. Romance, femininity, and sexiness epitomize the Sue Wong style. I’m not dealing with reality, I’m dealing with fantasy” – all which of course speak to the very soul of the LA equation and mystique.
Bauknight began shooting Fashion and Culture in Los Angeles on September 10, 2010 at Fashion Night’s Out and hopes to complete it “within a few months.” Other participating designers include Jeff Rudes of J Brand Jeans, Calleen Cordero, Kevan Hall, and Jane Booke. As the film develops, LA designers and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa give voice to making Los Angeles a fashion hub of the US via investing in our own economy by designing and manufacturing here at home in the US.
Photojournalist Catherine Bauknight has worked with The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, and other prominent publications. She has covered stories based on a diversity of cultural and social issues such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, bad water in Ethiopia, a Tuberculosis epidemic in Peru, and the renaissance of the Catawba Indians. She first turned her eye to documentary filmmaking in 2005 to express the social issues of the native Hawaiian people through their voice and their culture. Since its premiere in 2009 at the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, her film, Hawaii A Voice For Sovereignty, recently won its 7th award from major international film festivals. In addition to photojournalism, Bauknight has taught Photography and Communication at Cal State Fullerton, California Polytechnic State, Pomona, and other college level institutions. Bauknight combines her ability to capture social truth and historical change through the voices and cultures of the people.