At the Sunset Strip staging of its fall collection, the L.A. brand evoked midnight in the Mojave and Studio 54
Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL
Thousands of beams of light bounced off disco balls onto studded crystals and glittering fringes as Baja East debuted its Fall 2020 collection at The West Hollywood Edition hotel. “I’m a huge fan and supporter of extravaganza and eleganza and all the ganzas,” says designer Scott Studenberg, who relocated the glam-casual brand’s headquarters from New York to his hillside Laurel Canyon home three years ago. The show, the brand’s first on the West Coast, took place just a week after Billy Porter turned up at the Grammys in a Studenberg-designed turquoise jumpsuit topped with an internet-breaking fringed hat.
“Sammy [Ratelle, Porter’s stylist] came over while I was working on this collection, and we were smoking a joint and talking about disco, and then he picked up one of our hats,” Studenberg says. The resulting collaboration with Sarah Sokol, a wide-brimmed topper outfitted with motorized crystal fringe, allowed Porter to reveal or obscure his face, at will. Naturally, a fringed cowboy chapeau created in collaboration with milliner Gigi Burris — the actual inspiration behind the accessory that launched a thousand memes — opened Baja East’s fall collection.
As a 10-piece band and choir performed disco classics, Studenberg sent out signature party looks favored by such clients as Lady Gaga and Celine Dion. “My high-fashion eveningwear is a sweatshirt with a silk jacket, a sexy skirt and socks hand-embellished with our BE logo in crystal,” he confides. Models dressed in a color palette that shifted from midnight to daybreak walked across Persian rugs hauled down the hill from Studenberg’s house. Black vegan leather hoodies and crystal bolo ties gave way to draped turquoise metallic knit dresses evoking the desert before sunup. White floral lace shirts, gowns and jackets embellished with Swarovski crystal star constellations signaled the dawn of a new day.
No Baja East collection is complete without sweats emblazoned with brand themes, and this season Studenberg took inspiration from the 1997 film Selena (due to her love of disco) and the categories highlighted in the ’80s drag ball documentary Paris is Burning. Sweatpants and T-shirts read Anything for Selenas, Haus of Labaja, Opulence, and High Fashion Eveningwear. In addition to the streetwear, Studenberg dreamed up Doodle boots complete with constellations and moons in collaboration with Aurora James of Brother Vellies to stomp through deserts both urban and rural.
“I was finally able to break away from New York, and I’ve recalibrated everything,” says Studenberg, who notes that the brand (which he initially co-founded with John Targon, who has since moved on) has always produced at least half of each collection in Los Angeles. “Now we have fittings looking out at the canyon with a disco ball overhead,” he adds. “I don’t know what’s better than that.”
Feature image: Backstage at the BAJA EAST Fall 2020 runway show.
Feb. 11, 2020
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