Let’s Go Out With Style, Shall We?: Aliona Kononova at Joel Chen’s Gallery C Project

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By the Good4Nothing Connoisseur, aka Bennett Stein

To paraphrase Serge Gainsbourg sampling some swingin’ ’60s Audrey Hepburn movie, “You are a very stylish girl.” Last night this refrain whipped through my skull on a loop as sundry sultry but stern-faced models took chic, cut on the bias, leather- and “paper effect” cotton-constructed MOE dresses for a spin atop two circus box platforms beside a giant life-size stuffed white stallion as a loin cloth-clad swami character swung a fat mallet into a huge and loudly banging gong. Must be a dinner bell I thought: yes, and then realized it was not only proclaiming ‘dinner is served’ but that we, citizens of fancy Hollywood, are what is on the menu, perhaps for a hungry clientele of very dissatisfied gods. Aliona Kononova as she unveiled her new Spring/Summer 2013 collection–via a pop-up installation hosted by Lyn Winter and self-described “incurable collector” Joel Chen at his ravishing Gallery C Project on Highland Avenue, and viewed by a crowd that included several prominent Russians, among them writer Oksana Robski, musician Roman Arkhipov, actress Elena Woroboff, illustrator and cartoonist Sergey Shramkovsky, socialite/muse Nadya Skazka and singer Mika Newton.

The two models atop circus boxes looked like bad kitties, I mean lionesses. I wanted to crack a lion tamer’s cat-O-nine-tails. The dresses they wore though were stunningly elegant, of leather flowing like liquid, cut and shaped and draped in a way that made you stand at attention; you half expected Grace Jones to enter with a gang of armed marauders to confiscate this artisanal line of woman-flattering haute fashion. Another model lingered languidly like a languishing tsarina in a sort of carnival ticket takers booth cum Victorian sheriff’s holding cell lined with dinosaur-era soccer ball-size dandelion wish flowers.

This model prisoner also sported the most stunning almost fossilized, dandelion-wish-flower, pill-box hat aloft her noggin (photo left, the “dandelion” hat won a competition judged by British milliner Stephen Jones with Vogue UK and Talenthouse). Step aside Ladies Beatrice and Gaga, y’all got a little competition in the sculpted hat department now. On a more urgent note, I distinctly sensed that mysticism and ancient tree worshipping deities, sprites and maenads, were in the house. I felt on alert as if privy to a state department traveler’s advisory: When traveling to earth be on your toes for not all is right with the little blue planet except fashion is rockin’ to the max. More specifically what I’m getting at is that the dresses embodied an urgent apocalyptic message, and it turns out that is an intention of the designer, shown upper right. Kononova, who trained with Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence and with Stephen Jones, and represented Moldova in the Venice Biennale in 2011, told DnA that she is trying to capture through her designs the anxiety she feels in the air these days about the state of the world.

Her MOE brand’s operating manifesto hangs on the mantra, “1-2 There Is Always A Choice,” which addresses not only the cosmic duality of the female, but the right to choose, what to wear, what mood to be in, what company to shanghai or launch or flip, where to prowl, where to eat, when to dance, whether or not to run for president. No doubt Hillary Clinton has on order a three dimensional rectangular 1-2 Clutch (orange object in model’s right paw, photo top left), an evening purse in the shape of a gizmo you’d expect to see clipped to a Seal Team 6 commando’s utility belt; it has the distinct military shock factor that makes you fear that contained within are tidy little packages of C4 plastique explosive.

In all seriousness, the dresses imparted a sensation that we humans, oh dear, have made a mess of things, have cocked it up so badly that the lease is up, our time’s expired, best hand the keys back before god sends his arc repo man. Then suddenly you notice the footwear on the models: towering pumps with WWII-era hand grenade shaped heels. Wow, so there you have it: gorgeous and elegantly simple shaped dresses with accessories that suggest ordnance, combat, shrapnel, sudden and violent death. All very rock ‘n’ roll and so femininely nihilistic. Gee, let’s party or save the world, don’t mess with Mr. In Between. Thanks Madame Nononova for writing what we pray is not the final chapter of our proud little species. And then that swami cat banged the gong again! And I knew it had not just been a bad dream, but an acceptance that I was witnessing fashion as prophecy. Goodnight, dear fellow earthlings, sure has been a gas-gas-gas. Let’s go out with style, shall we?

The event, titled High Fashion, was part of the L[A-List], a series of exclusive LA-centric events celebrating innovations in design, culinary arts, photography, wellness and technology supported by the all-new Lincoln MKZ, and hosted by Joel Chen and Lyn Winter. Select pieces from the collection, including the designer’s limited edition Dandelion brooches will be on view from December 13-22, 2012 at C Project, 830 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Opening hours are Monday-Friday from 10 30am to 5pm, Saturdays from 12pm to 5pm.