It didn't take long, once I'd ascended the stairs to a Silver Lake bungalow perched atop a hill with a view of the sunset, to find myself sitting on a cushion, sipping CBD lemonade, getting henna painted onto my hand, and watching a group of women experiment with putting hash in a hookah. I glanced around the yard at the all-girls party — a DJ set up by the entrance, a spread of THC-infused hummus and mezze plates at the center, fairy lights, beautifully embroidered cushions, joints and topicals everywhere — and realized this pot party was only the beginning of a new era of pot parties to grace Los Angeles.
It was a refreshing sort of retro-paradise, a party with all the essentials — good food, good people, good weed — hosted by the aptly named group Ladies of Paradise. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the Ladies have applied their expertise in styling, fashion, branding and event production to paint a new image of cannabis in Los Angeles, 2018.
If you've cruised Instagram lately (it has become a parade of cool kids and weed nerds redefining the cannabis space), you may have come across the group's profile. It's a compilation of trendy vintage fashion, bright and bubbly colors — mainly pink — and blissed-out models of all shapes and colors, accessorized by a billow of smoke and some sort of nouveau, pretty pot pipe, vape pen or good ol' joint.
With their next party in L.A. themed after Andy Warhol's studio, the Factory, on Aug. 25, the Ladies often look as if they've stepped out of a 420-friendly episode of Austin Powers, but with a modern twist. This is, after all, where cannabis is headed in the post-prohibition era.
Ladies of Paradise packages cannabis in a completely different way than it's been done before, but with a nod to the bubble-gum, paisley days that birthed cannabis counterculture in the '60s and '70s. "I think we can help reach a larger audience the way we do it," says co-founder Harlee Case. "It's less intimidating, more stylized, and might spark the interest of people who weren't interested in cannabis before."
Established as a cannabis brand in 2017, the group's Oregon parties each draw about 250 people and feature multiple activations, musicians, cool cannabis brands such as event sponsor NugTools, art installations and always a fun theme, such as "Neon Safari" or "Cowboys vs. Aliens." These events are historically bigger and more of a party than the L.A.-based invite-only infused dinners and such, like the Moroccan Nights dinner party I went to in Silver Lake.
But that's about to change, as the Ladies plant deeper seeds in Los Angeles, looking for creative ways to curate a space where people can interact with and try new cannabis products. "I think one of the things that we're trying to bring from Portland to L.A. is the community," Case says. "When we go to L.A., we hear from a lot of girls, 'You bring girls together, you encourage them to work together and collaborate.'?"
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In addition to throwing parties, Ladies of Paradise has a brick-and-mortar cannabis lifestyle shop in Portland, and also offers California and Oregon cannabis clients social media content services, in-house design or packaging, and lifestyle or product photography.
"One of our big goals is to change the way cannabis is advertised," co-founder Jade Daniels says. "We want to stay away from the traditional or old-school way of advertising cannabis by sexualizing women, and show you can still sell weed or style with your clothes on." In doing so, they're also removing the stigma, painting a trendy, fashionable image of an everyday cannabis consumer.
"Pretty much every girl likes to play dress-up in one way, shape or form," Case says. "At our parties, we encourage people to dress up, get out of themselves, and to be creative and excited about what they're wearing." In this way, cannabis is also a creative agent — inspiring people to have fun and take chances, whether it's putting together an outfit for a party or styling a whole shoot.
The group's emphasis on visual aesthetics is part and parcel to a pot-fueled cultural revolution happening in Los Angeles: In a society dominated by aesthetics, the Ladies' predilection toward girly, ganjaful, good times energizes not only a beautiful Instagram account but, in all seriousness, a zest for a more dazzling, collaborative, enhanced life — the "high life," so to speak, in California's post-prohibition paradise.