Once again, I’m going to try and be nice. Here we go.

Malibu, California is an interesting place and spawns some interesting looks. That fact was quite evident this morning as Malibu-based design duo Mark and Estel presented their Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Done largely in black and white, with a touch of dusty blue here and there, one cannot miss the strong California beach influence of the styles. Short shorts, lacy bra tops and large, floppy hats over loose, billowing dresses look made for the beach. This is a distinctive “bad girl” look that almost seems to give the finger to anyone who lets their eyes linger a moment too long. Hair is blown out and  teased. Makeup is dark and smokey. Lips are bright and sun kissed. I’m pretty sure I’ve witnessed that look on the Santa Monica pier a few times.

What I like about the Mark and Estel line is that they make an effort to be environmentally conscious. Everything in this collection is made of recycled materials, including old sweat pants. That they are able to take previously worn materials and make them look this good is commendable. I tended to think the floppy bow ties that made repeated appearances were a bit unpractical (lean over and they’re going to get in the way of everything),  but much of the remainder has to potential to be very workable. The line is probably going to have a limited appeal, given that the short shorts and severely cropped tops are likely to turn a  suspicious head if worn anywhere outside California. The longer, more flowing dresses  would probably do better with a general audience if they weren’t all black. I’m  not sure Mark and Estel are interested in reaching a general audience, though. I get the feeling they rather enjoy being well outside the mainstream and that’s not a bad place to be.

Unfortunately, getting an invitation to a Mark and Estel show is rather like getting an invitation to a train wreck; one doesn’t really want to go, but simultaneously finds it impossible to stay away. The clothes have a strong alternative appeal and carry a great deal of potential in that market. However, I cannot help but feel sorry for the models standing at the back of the runway and the designers come out, both with microphones, Mark with his guitar, and proceed to make fools of themselves with what I assume is supposed to be music. Or rap. Or perhaps an imitation of the sound of a train wreck, in which case they were spot on. While this season was not quite the spectacle as last, they still demean their integrity as designers with such egotistical displays of self-absorption and undermine any good they might otherwise do.

If ever a brand could benefit by being separated from its designers, Mark and Estel is it. Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone standing in line to buy them out, assuming they would ever sell. Perhaps Mercedes Benz or IMG can ban live “music” performances on the catwalk next season. Something.

Mark and Estel web site

Mark and Estel on Facebook

Photo credit:  Frazer Harrison

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