WALK INTO ANTONIO AGUILAR'S HOLLYWOOD APARTMENT AND THE FIRST THING you'll spot are two sewing machines. To get to Maia Sarmanian's kitchen table, which is covered with bolts of cloth, you first have to squeeze by a dressmaker's dummy. Rami Kashoú makes his patterns on a living-room table, and cuts his clothes on the floor. A garage has become Ismael Gardea's studio. Marlene Salcido takes in a post-card view of downtown while sewing in the kitchen of her Angelino Heights fourth-floor walkup. Five very different designers, from entirely self-taught to fashion-school dropout, they all share a DIY approach and a willingness to work hard. While all are at varying points in their careers, together they're reshaping what it means to be a designer in L.A.

Photographs by Larry Hirshowitz All photos were shot at the Edendale Grill, a 1920s firehouse in Silver Lake that Patti Peck (former owner of Millie's) and Melanie Tusquellas (whose family runs Tusquellas Seafoods in the original Farmers Market) are converting into a restaurant and “mixville bar” which will open in summer 2002.

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