Los Angeles Fashion Week received a strong uplift from Hollywood this week courtesy of the House of Irene show at Raleigh Studios. The Irene the show was named for was California designer Irene Lentz. Although it was clear that many in attendance had no idea who Irene Lentz was, they were excited to see a fashion show at a Hollywood studio. Irene Lentz died in 1962 and her fashion house folded shortly after her death. In a way Irene was a product of Hollywood. She started as a silent film actress in Mack Sennett films. But she left films and started designing clothes. Her fashions had a celebrity clientele from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. In the 1940’s she succeeded legendary costume designer Adrian as head of costume design at MGM studios. So how did her fashions come back to life some 50 years after her death on a sound stage at Raleigh Studios for Los Angeles Fashion Week?
Costume designer Greg LaVoi has long admired the work of Irene Lentz. For the last several years, Irene garments have been a staple of Brenda (played by Kyra Sedgwick) on TNT’s The Closer TV Show. Mr. LaVoi decided to relaunch the House of Irene, no mean feat in 2013. Irene Lentz was well known for gowns and suits, the two staples of her fashion collections. She catered to the luxury market. Her clothing was sold at Bullocks Wilshire, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Her lines were sleek and upscale. Hand stitching, exquisite buttons and gorgeous, luxurious fabrics were her trademarks. An Irene Lentz garment was not cheap, but it was of high quality and built to last. There were attendees at the 2013 Irene fashion show wearing Irenes that were 60 plus years old and still in good condition.
In relaunching Irene’s collection, Mr. LaVoi has remained true to Irene’s design aesthetic His Irene collection was full of her patterned two piece suits, gorgeous cocktail dresses and Oscar worthy gowns. He also included Irene’s “Katherine Hepburn” pants along with elegant blouses. Like Irene, Mr. LaVoi has been dressing Hollywood celebrities for years. These celebrities may now turn to him for their red carpet gowns, just as Hollywood stars like Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard and Doris Day turned to Irene. But will modern women turn to Irene by Greg LaVoi for suit dressing? Or have suits become something of an extinct species today? It seems that the beautiful cocktail dresses and gowns in the collection might be the more commercially sustainable pieces of the collection for today’s woman.
What is interesting about the Irene Fall 2013 collection is that Irene Lentz’s patterns have aged so well. They are indeed timeless. I own several Irene garments and I have studied many more. Irene by Greg LaVoi is an extension of her original line, it is not a revision. These are Irene Lentz’s patterns. Some pieces have been updated with different materials, like a leather cape, originally designed by Irene as a wool cape. The beaded short top that Irene made for Doris Day to wear in Lover Come Back was featured in the Irene Fall 2013 show. The beaded top was the same design, but paired with leather pants instead of a skirt like Doris wore.
Only time will tell if the public will appreciate the Irene relaunch. The fashion lines of deceased designers Ossie Clark and Vionnet have been relaunched with varying degrees of success. Let’s hope we see Irene back on department store racks this Fall.
To see more of Irene Lentz’s original fashions and images from the Irene by Greg LaVoi collection see below.