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London Calling

Photos by Julie Pavlowski

Tomomi Fukuda never planned on being a clothing designer, although as a teenager she liked to loiter on the steps of World’s End, the London boutique owned by Vivienne Westwood. “I loved watching the punks and Teds, the fashion at the time. And the fashion in the store,” Fukuda says. She studied graphic design in college, but after moving to L.A. found herself employed as a retail girl to make ends meet.

“Then one day, I came to work, and the shop was empty, everything gone. It turns out the man who was my boss, he hadn’t paid rent in something like nine months. The landlord was there with some people cleaning up the place. She knew me from working in the store and liked the clothing I wore — plus I guess she thought I was a nice person. She said, ‘Tomomi, I’ve had so many bad tenants — I can’t take it anymore. Have you ever thought about running a business of your own? I’d like you to take over this space.’ It took about a month and a half to decide, then I thought ‘Why not give it a try?’”

 



Joey LaRocca, singer for the
Briggs, is in a hand-knit mohair
per over a cotton T-shirt
cotton-blend satin pants.


What started out an experiment in 1995 has evolved into a successful boutique and clothing line, both known as Camden Lock. In its nascent days, Fukuda tailored mod thrift-store finds toward a tapered-leg British fit. “But then that got boring,” she says. A fan of fuzzy headwear and sweaters, Fukuda “made up how to knit. I didn’t know what I was doing, but people started buying it.”

Her learn-as-you-go DIY approach worked. Hip-hop heavy-hitters are down with her beanies, but it’s the hand-knit mohair sweaters that have earned Fukuda a following. Her “jumpers” (she prefers the British term) have shown up everywhere — just don’t ask her to go star-spotting. Actor Jared Leto was a client for over three years before Fukuda had any knowledge of his celebrity status. Actor Gale Howard, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, and members of No Doubt did prove easier for her to recognize — although Miss Stefani is S.O.L. as far as getting any Camden Lock threads. While Fukuda tried her hand at making women’s clothes, these days her focus is on the
XY set.





From time to time, her tartan bondage pants and politi-punk tees (with slogans such as “Abuse of power comes as no surprise”) can be found on the racks of Fred Segal and American Rag — including the American Rag stores in Tokyo. For this Japanese native, having her creations exported to her homeland completes a full circle that embraces Fukuda’s history: anarchy in the U.K. and irony in a sunny SoCal setting.





The latest Camden Lock undertaking is the classic four-button suit. With its clean silhouette and super-slim fit, Fukuda has elevated her status from street to sophisticated. “Now what I really want is to find an investor,” she says. “I have many ideas, many other things I want to make, but not the means to manufacture.”

Camden Lock, 7021 Melrose Ave., (323) 933-5752; www.camdenlockclothing.com


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