By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
With her colorfully inked arms and customized threads, handbag designer Allison Burns is the quintessentially cool flash-trash L.A. rock chick. She‘s one of those women who throws it all together so perfectly -- an effortlessly unique way with makeup, clothes and accessories -- that you want to hate her, but she’s just too nice. And to top it off, Burns, a New York--born, L.A.-based makeup artist, has usually designed whatever eye-catching creation she happens to be sporting -- she started sewing her own clothes and bags when she was 11. Nearly every day she gets asked, ”Where can I get that?“ Usually, the answer is the same: ”Nowhere, I made it.“ One day on a set, as she was toting a half-moon-shaped purse embellished with patches and safety pins that she‘d designed, Good Day L.A. host Jillian Barberie not only asked the question, she insisted that Burns make her a similar bag.
For two years now Burns has been crafting her distinctive carryalls, each model inspired by rock & roll divas of yore. It began with ”The Cherie,“ the purse Barberie coveted, named after Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie. Next was ”The Stevie,“ a roomy gypsy-woman bag with a long, thick shoulder strap and hippie-ish pocket design, followed by a chic clutch with a sequined butterfly called ”The Debbie“ (Deborah Harry owns two). Even the dudes are represented with ”The Morrison,“ a biker-style wallet embellished with band names.
All the early designs of her eponymous line were made from denim -- she searched through thrift stores and friends’ unwanted-clothing stashes for old jeans to take apart -- but she‘s since abandoned the fabric. ”I still like it, but it’s oversaturated,“ she says. ”When the Gap started doing denim bags, I stopped.“ These days, she‘s working in leather, which adds an edgy elegance to her purses: There’s ”The Flying V,“ a small evening bag in white, black or fuchsia (all with hot-pink lining) modeled after the flamboyant guitar. And there‘s ”The Pearl,“ a modified version of her denim ”The Janis,“ with a metallic hoop handle and a more spacious gathered pouch. These are purses for girls with plenty of attitude to spare. She also does an exclusive collection for the Chinatown gallery Shop Chuey, featuring silk-screened works of its showcased artists -- so far she’s done totes emblazoned with the art of sultry psycho-pop tart Niagara and photos by Ann Summa from her recent ”L.A. Punk Revisited“ show.
Although her bags evoke a certain spirit of the ‘70s, Burns is a proud out-of-the-closet metalhead who lets the ’80s guide her now and again, especially on custom pieces. During a five-month-long stint as the makeup artist for The Osbournes, she made Kelly a Janis, but with a hesher twist: black-and-white stonewash adorned with a skull-and-crossbones patch. Other fans of Burns‘ bags include Aimee Osbourne, Kelly’s spotlight-shunning sister, and Rob Zombie‘s wife, Sherry Moon. Of course, Burns’ successful makeup career -- she‘s done video work with everyone from the Smashing Pumpkins to N.E.R.D. -- puts her in the perfect surroundings to show off her designs to high-profile fashionistas.
Still, non-celebrities -- funky femme fatales who love rock & roll and want to look hot -- are her main customers. Burns not unexpectedly champions the purse, along with makeup, as the ultimate form of self-expression. ”Your life is in there,“ she says. ”Even if it’s a mess on the inside, you want it to look good on the outside.“
Allison Burns is available at Jennifer Kaufman in the Beverly Center, (310) 854-1058; Blest Boutique, 1634 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 467-0191; Beige, 7274 Beverly Blvd., (323) 549-0064; Shop Chuey, 437 Gin Ling Way, Chinatown, (213) 625-3789; and www.allisonburns.com.
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