LOOKS FROM CHARLOTTE RONSON'S FALL 2011 COLLECTION, MODELED BY HALF-SISTER ANNABELLE DEXTER-JONES (LEFT) AND CHARLOTTE FREE.
The hippest crowd of Fashion Week filled the Charlotte Ronson Fall 2011 show to overflowing this weekend, as she sent a mélange of slouchy sweaters, delicate chiffon print skirts, punky torn tights, knit caps, and lace-up ankle boots down the runway to her sister Samantha's soundtrack. What Ronson does so brilliantly every season is intertwine femininity with rocker chic, often recalling a musical genre ('90s Seattle grunge in her Spring 2011 collection; '70s Studio 54 in Fall 2010), with her own unique twist.
At the show, Sophia Bush, Mena Suvari, Olivia Munn, Russell Simmons, Kim Kardashian, LaLa Vazquez, and Brittany Snow looked on from the front row. Bush, who described her personal style as "eclectic," said that Ronson's collection "was really beautiful. I loved the prints and the sweaters; it was romantic and also really edgy. It had sex appeal and was also covered up, which I like. I like subtle; I like the appeal of clothes to whisper more than shout." In addition to wrapping One Tree Hill, Bush recently acted in "this great film that just opened in the U.K. last week, with Bill Nighy and Brooke Shields and Felicity Jones, called Chalet Girl."
"It was a bit of '70s gypsy, but Samantha made it present. It's also important for me to bring back a bit of grunge each season because I feel like that's my style, my essence," said the designer. The collection was like a mixtape of a downtown girl's favorite songs, including vibes from different eras—not greatest hits, but personal, even obscure, favorites. Samantha's music sampled The Clash's "Guns of Brixton": one of their greatest, but not a "greatest hit"—and sung by bassist Paul Simonon, not Joe Strummer. The soundtrack also included The Cult, new tracks by The Strokes and half-brother Alexander Dexter-Jones ("Fantastic Phone Call"), and in a stroke of Grammy prescience, Album of the Year winners Arcade Fire. Black Keys provided the finale, and Samantha sampled her own new song, "Chasing the Reds," on which she plays guitar (her album, also titled Chasing the Reds, will drop in June on her label, Broken Toys).
As for how she works with her twin sister, "Charlotte tells me what she's inspired by when she designs a collection, and I get a couple of ideas about what I'm going to do," said Samantha. "Last season was really specific, '90s grunge, so it was easy. I wanted not to do a specific decade this season, because I've done that—all '70s, all '80s. But it was definitely edgy, so I wanted to use a mix of cooler, punk-ish music."
Asked how far ahead they work on the music, Samantha laughs. "This happened last night at the airport; I was taking the redeye in from L.A. I got in at 5:00 and I hadn't seen them yet. I just sort of wing it."
Also just in from L.A. was the new "It"-model-in-training, Charlotte Free. The 18-year-old was literally discovered in an arcade, where she was approached by a photographer who sent photos of her to IMG. "He asked if he could take pictures of me and I was like, 'whatever'!" Free dyed her hair pink "because pink has a lot of energy." She pinned back one side of it, so it appears shaved, and told us that at a recent photo shoot, a hairstylist liked the look so much, they styled all the models' hair that way.
Free just began modeling in December; the Ronson show was the third show of her first Fashion Week. We chatted with the self-professed "metalhead from L.A." backstage as she changed into her own vintage black Slayer T-shirt before dashing off to her next show. Did Ronson have any advice for the newbie? "She said, 'think badass; you're a badass; just do your thing.'"