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Eyes of the Needle

Photos by Raul Vega

Although the name of their line, Glaza, means “eyes” in Russian, Marina Toybina says that she and her business partner, Ashton Hirota, walked into the fashion business “completely blind. We didn’t know what we were doing.” The design duo met as co-workers at the store Crossroads and discovered they were both students at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Hirota recalls: “Marina saw some of my sketches when I was doing homework at our job, and somehow it came up that we should start designing together. The more I thought about it, the more we talked about it, the more it made sense. It’s not like either of us had a background in business. We went into this thing with no backing — nothing at all.”

Their first goal was to put on a fashion show, which they did in fall 2002, showcasing some 187 pieces for men and women — an unheard-of amount for nearly any designer, established or just getting started. In the year since, Toybina and Hirota have learned on their feet and developed a flourishing business. This is not to say, however, that a customer can drive to the nearest shopping emporium and purchase a Glaza item off the rack. On the contrary, the Glaza philosophy is to “stand by the art of fashion.” And to that end, Toybina and Hirota design without regard to trend or season: A Glaza ensemble will look just as timely tomorrow as it does today.

At the same time, it’s clear a certain whimsy informs their work. These two like to have fun, especially with color and texture: A heavily stitched denim jacket is hand-painted in a screeching SOS orange, blue jeans are adorned with quirky cotton and Lycra details, classic fedoras are reconstructed with a hip-hop feel.

“These days, L.A. fashion is all about designers getting their stuff on the red carpet,” says Toybina. “With all the mass production and corporate branding, it’s lost its art. It’s the creative spirit that drives us.” Hirota adds that Glaza “isn’t part of the celebrity contest. We make one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories because we want to see beauty in the world.” Despite their disinterest in courting boldface names, personalities ranging from Mary J. Blige to male members of No Doubt, the Distillers and Black-Eyed Peas are among their clientele.

Ashton Hirota and Marina Toybina

“We make sacrifices to do what we do,” Toybina says. “Ashton and I finished school and quit Crossroads, but there are still times when we’re on the other side of the counter, trying to sell our clothing there. I’ve sold most of my furniture and pretty much lost my apartment, but designing clothes is what I’m going to do. And we’re doing it.”

Concludes Hirota: “Besides, being creative is being resourceful.”

Glaza is available at Planet Blue, 3835 Cross Creek Road, Suite 13A, Malibu, (310) 317-9975, and through their showroom at Brazen Management, 548 S. Spring St., No. 510, downtown, (213) 624-0190, or www.rockyourglaza.com.

Models: Michelle Raschiatore (Osbrink Model) and Tommy Schroth (Osbrink Model)

Makeup: Shayla Taylor

Hair: Johnny Rodriguez

Tommy wears a hand-washed cotton denim jacket over a cotton raglan sweatshirt and cotton denim pant with leather details.


Michelle is in a hand-stitched silk blouse with vintage lace embroidery and cotton denim pants with reverse waistband and mesh trim, topped with a cotton denim fedora with a mesh veil.


Tommy is in a two-collared satin and wool dress shirt under a denim cotton jacket with tuck details and cotton denim pants with outside seams and inverted cuffs; Michelle wears a distressed cotton denim skirt with leather and mesh details, tucked cotton corduroy bondage-strap jacket with denim collar and waistband and a reversible knit cotton/faux fur hoodie hat with mohair wool ties and pom-poms.


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