Dinner and Launch with Juan Carlos Obando

I don’t know why the announcement on the other end of the phone about the decision to go into jewelry was such a surprise during a recent conversation with Juan Carlos Obando—whom those who’ve known the Colombian-born, L.A. designer since he came onto the scene seven years ago, call J.C.

With this last year’s heightened interest in his dresses among the red carpet set and art social circuit, it seemed like J.C. was too occupied to venture into anything else—let alone jewelry that was such a contrast from his collection’s newly hyper feminine tone.

These are bracelets and rings that are unisex, brutalist, I observe once he laid out the new line atop a glass cabinet at my A+R store on La Brea. They are born from ambles through Home Depot, he tells me, informed and suggesting leaden nails and saw blades.

J.C. was encouraged by the few pieces he designed for Atelier Swarovski this last Spring. And so he decided to finally realize his own signature line.  The need was there, he noted, for something that would complete the look of his clothes. They might be cut of silk, after all, but J.C. has always envisioned the woman in even his most frothiest frocks can be as tough as brass. In this case, a supremely polished brass material that renders a set of wide cuffs like gold. Thoughts of Wonder Woman’s powerful wrist shields cross my mind as he persuades Andy and me to break the collection at A+R.

A week later we are seated under the colonnades at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, along with Mandy Moore, Jessica Joffe and some 30 other friends of J.C.’s, listening to the designer’s words of gratitude for the support everyone around the endlessly long table has provided him since he showed his first collection in 2005.

“Many of you here are from when I first started, and you did so many things for me,” he said. “I’m here today because of you.” At the time he entered fashion, and for several years thereafter, J.C. continued paying the bills as an advertising art director, a metier that has provided him with plenty of insight into how to approach his second act in fashion.

“It” girl-model Lydia Hearst chose a blue dress with a full skirt from the Spring collection for the evening. She and her BFF Lauren Harper were seated across from Andy and me, and kept us engaged throughout the meal with talk of perfume and design and snapping Instagram images of them with each of their mobile phones between courses.

Pretty young actresses weren’t the only ones that evening draped in J.C.’s work. Looking elegantly modern was Katherine Ross, the night’s cohost along with Angelique Soave, Rochelle Gores Fredston and Vogue’s west coast bureau chief Lisa Love. J.C. was a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominee in 2008. His fellow finalist that year, jeweler Irene Neuwirth attended the dinner, as did our favorite shoe maker George Esquivel, who was a finalist in 2011 and has frequently collaborated on J.C.’s runway heels as well as stone-encrusted sandals for Irene now in some Barneys stores.

As for Katherine, a fashion consultant and oft-photographed fashion plate as the other half of LACMA director Michael Govan, she has been a fervent supporter of J.C. since I introduced them at an event a couple of years back.

One of J.C.’s dresses I now absolutely covet was inhabited by stylist pal Elizabeth Stewart, who slipped into her chair next to Andy after the calamari starter had been served. It was black and white and I was green all over.

Other long-time supporting stylists there were Arianne Phillips, Jessica de Ruiter and Tanya Gil. Willow Bay also champions J.C. by way of her personal wardrobe choices at the various museum galas she frequents as a LACMA board member and wife of Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger.

Likewise Jacqui Getty, who arrived straight from the set of her daughter Gia Coppola’s first feature film. We managed to sneak in 10 minutes before desert to exchange updates on life. Besides documenting Gia’s film in photos, she’s also splitting her days on set for Wes Anderson’s latest film, assisting costume designer Milena Canonero, as she has forever. Jacqui’s really looking amazing after her divorce, complete with a sparkle in her eye toward the future. Or, perhaps, it was simply motherly pride for Gia’s young foray into the family business.

Whether the ties that bind are dna or otherwise, fraternity, as J.C. pointed out on this evening, can be a beautiful thing.

Photos by Stefanie Keenan unless indicated in caption.

Posted in Event, Fashion, Style

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