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August 1 2014

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Brian Lichtenberg: Beyond the T-shirt

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Brian Lichtenberg

Mention Los Angeles-based designer Brian Lichtenberg and two things come to mind. The first, of course, is his line of cheeky, logo-tweaked T-shirts, in which Hermès becomes Homiés, Celine transforms to Feline, and Balmain is swapped for Ballin’. Rihanna wears them. Miley Cyrus is a fan. And they’re sold at such highbrow retailers as Net-a-Porter, Colette, and Browns of London. For those with a slightly longer celeb-fashion memory, Lichtenberg is also a ready-to-wear designer known for some very high-voltage body-con dresses.

He let his ready-to-wear line go when the T-shirts picked up. “It’s a small team that I’m working with,” Lichtenberg explained. “It’s growing, but in the beginning, when it became all about the sweatshirts, the T-shirts, the beanies, the hoodies, it was like we really only had to focus on that or it wasn’t going to get made.” But this evening at The Hub at the Hudson Hotel, Lichtenberg relaunched his now-several-seasons-dormant luxury collection. “It was like, OK, I can keep doing this and not do any more dresses or leggings and just kind of be known as another L.A. sportswear designer,” Lichtenberg related from the couch in the Hudson’s lounge. “But I [wouldn't have been able to] live with myself. I want to do my dresses. I want to do the patchwork and the fun editorial moments. It’s in my blood.”

The collection, of which Lichtenberg gave us an exclusive preview, is a motocross-inspired compilation of mesh, spandex, and fishnet patched leggings; sexed-up bandage dresses; and lambskin leather drop pants (for both girls and guys). A fox fur taupe jacket and more than a few transparent lace and leather evening crop tops make it clear: This is not for a shy client.

The line—first inspired by a pair of vintage moto pants Lichtenberg found at a thrift store (“I love thrift shopping and I love just going to the Rose Bowl and shopping for ripped-up T-shirts,” he said)—is not without its tongue-in-cheek elements. A red-and-white men’s sweatshirt reads “Lichtenboro” in place of Marlboro, while a casual tee is printed with “Be Licked” as a stand-in for Bud Light. “It started with those pants, then it got me into the patchwork of the legs and doing the dresses and also kind of a white-trash element,” Lichtenberg said. “‘Be Licked’ is just a throwback to smoking and beer and all that kind of stuff.”

The designer hopes that fans of his T-shirts will embrace his ready-to-wear. It’s for somebody “who doesn’t take fashion too seriously, but loves to dress up,” Lichtenberg explained. “A free spirit.”

Photo: Getty Images

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