A Well-Worn T 

Thursday, Dec 1 2005

Skater girls, surfer chicks and backyard barbecues: This is the stuff Saint Grace is made of — the childhood fantasies of its designer, Quinn Thompson.

Ever since he could remember, Thompson wanted to live in Los Angeles. And he didn’t grow up in bumblefuck noplace, where anywhere would have been better than the end of his suburban cul-de-sac. He grew up on a ship once owned by James Cagney, a 1907 schooner named Martha. But his summer vacations in Los Angeles, visiting his mother’s family, are what made the lasting impression. During the gray days when Martha was moored in Olympia, Washington, gently rocking in the current, he dreamed of returning to the land of eternal sunshine so he could ollie and grind and surf once more. And as soon as he finished high school, he did just that.

“It’s the whole well-worn California lifestyle I love so much,” says Thompson as he sits back in his East L.A. office, surrounded by neat piles of fashion magazines, everything from Vogue to obscure European glossies. Now he’s living his version of it. Which is why his jeans are faded, his once-black Chuck Taylors are as gray as those Olympia mornings, and his vintage ’70s Harley Davidson T-shirt is so worn, it’s practically see-through.

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He got into fashion design because of a self-diagnosed ?T-shirt obsession — or chronic pursuit of the perfect vintage T. Finally, he felt the only cure was to make his own. After all, he had repped for Swatch and William B., and he had sold Junkfood and Michael Stars T’s at his showroom, Blue Marble. So he found a patternmaker and the right fabric — a blend so sheer and soft, it was born virtually threadbare — and introduced his first Saint Grace line with seven styles, seven colors and a biker-font logo that you might see on the back of a leather jacket cruising down the freeway, or on a gangster tat. The T’s immediately took off.

After urging from various showrooms, Thompson branched out. Slowly the line filled with brushed-fleece pants, tubular (that’s seamless, not Val-speak) tanks, and “wife keepers.” Then came thermal-type long-sleeve shirts, pima gauze shirts, even undies and camisoles. Once Jessica Simpson donned a pair of his culottes, he couldn’t fill orders fast enough.

He wants girls to look pretty, and in L.A., where it can be 80 degrees during the day, then drop to 60, he created a whole line made for layering — thin piece on top of thin piece — so you feel warm and sexy, not bulky. Thompson also chooses colors that are yummy — shades of raspberry, plum and apple you want to eat. And though they look like duds you’d throw on for yoga, they’re really the perfect casual clothes for backyard barbecues or running around town when you want to look stylish, but not in an out-of-work-actress-trying-too-hard Juicy Couture way. Just cute and comfortable.

In fact, Thompson wanted to make a line women would want to live in. I have a few of Thompson’s T’s, and this is embarrassing to admit, but I wear ’em all weekend, from bed to beach, to bar, to bed again. They are so soft and buttery and thin that sometimes I have to check and make sure I still have clothes on.

Thompson sees nothing unusual about this. “This is the wild West, the land of outlaws and real cowboys, where anything goes,” he says with an excitement usually displayed by little boys with toy guns, then adds, “My grandfather was a real cowboy, carried a pistol and roped cattle, and I had two uncles who were miners.”

Maybe his cowboy genes are what triggered his love for the anything-goes attitude that he finds in L.A. fashion.

“Where else can you see Gucci paired with flip-flops?” he asks. “Nowhere!”

Photographer: Jason Odell Model: Diana Chavez Saint Grace is available at Fred Segal, 420 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 394-9814 . Emphasis, 8659 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 657-5804 . Ethel, 82351/2 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 658-8602 . Citrine, 1000 N. Bristol St., Ste 12, Newport Beach, (949) 838-0215. Tops $30–$90, bottoms $75–$120. For other locations, go to www.saintgrace.com.

Reach the writer at limmediato@laweekly.com

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