L.A. Fashion Week Unofficially Begins With Powerful Ukrainian Designer Showcase

Lever Couture

Amid the backdrop of war, Los Angeles’ Fashion Week began with a moving display of eveningwear by Lever Couture, designed by Ukrainian-born, L.A.-based designer Lessja Verlingieri. 

Sergio Hudson, Cult Gaia, Brunello Cucinelli, Ulla Johnson, Prada, Gucci, and Balenciaga are some of the notable brands that are participating in various L.A. events, including dinners, parties, and runway shows that are planned throughout the remainder of the year.

Lessja Verlingieri initiated the week’s fashion festivities at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, drawing attention from celebrities like Milla Jovovich, Geena Davis, Johnny Wujek, and Martin Katz. The designer is well-known for dressing stars like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Tems, a singer who wore a viral cloudlike gown at last year’s Oscars.

“Lessja is a close friend of mine, she designed my dress for Cannes last year, and I think it’s important for us Ukrainian girls to support each other, and I had to be here tonight to give her a good rock to lean on,” Jovovich told WWD, adding that the designer’s work “is sculptural but also respectful to a woman’s body. She’s a woman designing for women.”

Backstage, Verlingieri, who last showed in Tokyo in 2022, was reflective. “I love L.A. and I want to make a mark here,” she told WWD of her couture-like gowns. “The collection is supposed to [imitate] emotion, reflect our state going from light to wild, strong silver to happy flowers, then white to black. Because we have in our lives a lot of sadness — especially with everything happening now.”

A pillar of light stood at the top of her runway, and the show began with a voiceover of Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from “The Great Dictator,” which makes a case for humanity in a time of evil, in his case, Nazi Germany.

On the runway, Verlingieri’s collection featured ethereal mesh goddess ensembles, gowns adorned with flowing metallic streamers, and striking ribbon fringe outfits.

Lever Couture

Every ensemble featured in the collection is deserving of the red carpet treatment. However, difficulties persist in light of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike impacting the fashion industry. Nonetheless, Verlingieri remains committed, stating “It’s hard, but I cannot stop doing what I love and what I feel.”

L.A. Fashion Week’s history has been marked by a tumultuous journey, featuring competing producers, divergent missions, and ever-changing locations. However, this season, the show is being orchestrated by N4XT Experiences and has garnered recognition from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, with the aspiration of rekindling the enchantment of its past editions.

This year’s L.A. Fashion Week lineup includes Sergio Hudson, Gypsy Sport, Simkhai, Claude Kameni, No Sesso, Theophilio, Luis De Javier, Neon Cowboys, BruceGlen, TomBogo, Saintwoods, Advisry, Sami Miro Vintage, AnOnlyChild, and Demobaza, among others. The event promises to offer a diverse range of collections and styles. The LAFW event will also include celebrity guests, stylists, media coverage, and international press.

The partnership with software giant SAP has enabled N4XT to offer interactive shopping experiences. The event will also feature a BeautyLab installation in collaboration with Lancôme, allowing the public to engage and explore these fashion brands.

Noah Kozlowski, the new vice president and head of designer relations, is spearheading L.A. Fashion Week, ensuring that the event provides designers with ample space to tell their stories and showcase well-made garments. He has created opportunities for smaller brands to shine, emphasizing creativity and quality craftsmanship. The event has strategically been scheduled after the global fashion month to allow designers to have more time for creativity.

Kozlowski shared with WWD, “Launching another main fashion week hub in another city, especially in a place where a lot of manufacturing takes place, will have a lot of impact not only for L.A., but for fashion as a whole. Everyone was interested in knowing the possibilities,” he mentioned, highlighting the widespread enthusiasm among designers he approached for their participation.

Demi Vitkute

Co-Founder & Editor

Demi Vitkute is a New York-based journalist and editor who’s passionate about reporting on the fashion industry, its problems, and its changemakers. She’s a founder of The Urban Watch Magazine and has written for The Washington Post, Inside Hook, and Promo Magazine, among others. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Emerson College.

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