A dash of art nouveau, a splash of Japanese artist Yayo Kasoma, and two cups Los Angeles indie stock, equals —
LACMA’s last bash? Not quite. Think instead the muses behind Echo Park-based Prospect 44’s spring collection.
“My inspirations are from a variety of things: flappers, literature, colors in different graffiti pieces,” said Marlene Salcido, designer of the independent, two-year-old women’s wear. She showed me to her kitchen, housing her sewing machine that earned her $3,600 her first year, and held up a pair of boy’s undies, appliqued with the golden “P44.” “What do you think?”
Looked like 24 karats of metrosexual gold to me. She told me how the briefs sold out recently at the Vice LA store.
“They were out of the store in one night,” affirmed Elissa Gennello, store manager of Vice LA. The underwear–part of Prospect 44’s near-future expansion into menswear and basics–sold well, but the line’s trademark “bubble” dress is most noted as a bestseller. With a mini skirt made three-dimensionally puffy by an elasticized hem, the piece continues from fall 2004, this time in princessy striped satins with geometric details marked by neon and metallic trim. The distinctive dress is Prospect 44 in–forgive me–a bubble: its sexuality is proportionate to its quirkiness, its innovation balanced by familiar fabrics, its deconstruction matched by careful tailoring.
Springtime captured that in tube tops accented with metallic hook-and-eye trim; cropped, flowing sweaters with deep V-necks highlighted with gold trim; and a variation on the bubble dress — a waistless, body-skimming, strapless dress. Pieces from this collection were picked up by Vice after Salcido wandered into the store wearing her work, a situation twin to the one that began her career.
“A friend told me about a new boutique in Echo Park, Sirens & Sailors,” said Salcido. “As soon as I walked in the owner, Jennifer Phillips, asked me who made my top and if I was interested in seeing my line in her boutique. Two weeks later we met up for an appointment.”
It seems Salcido’s sales pitch is usually just a stroll in her clothes.
“Marlene was shopping in Apartment 3,” said Kristin Knauff, owner of the Hollywood boutique, “and after I commented on how cute her outfit was she told me that she’d designed what she was wearing. I brought the line into the store the following week.” Knauff, too, notes the bubble dress as most popular. “They’re pretty easily worn by anybody. The pinstripe fabrics give them a classic feel but the design of the skirt is unconventional and gives the piece edge.”
It’s that edge that caught the eye of LA Weekly‘s style editor Kateri Butler, who deemed Salcido as one of five LA designers to watch. “I saw some Prospect 44 pieces at Sirens & Sailors and was immediately intrigued,” said Butler. “Her clothes have a complex and edgy dynamic that comes from a startlingly original perspective,” a perspective as fresh as the one Salcido credits her line’s consumers with.
“The ideal wearer is someone that’s fashion forward, willing to take fashion risks and not afraid to start a trend,” she said, laying out a pair of tweed hot pants screened with repetitive Polaroid images. “Sometimes you have to take risks to succeed.”