Photo by Larry Hirshowitz
We seem to be in the midst of a global L.A. fashion moment. Designers who once may have mumbled their West Coast address under their breath now declare it with the same insouciance so artfully reflected in their clothes. But not to worry, none of the folks quoted below will beat you over the head with their expertise — that’s just not L.A. style. Here are some thoughts on what is:
The whole general move toward casual dressing is coming out of L.A., the freedom and free-spiritedness, the do-whatever-you-want mixing and individualizing. Anybody can go out and buy Prada head to toe, but that takes zero creativity. Girls are much hipper here in terms of street fashion; what’s happening on Vermont is more interesting than what’s going on in Paris. The idea of sticking to one hemline length seems quaint now. I like the studied but disheveled look — I prefer to see someone in my clothes mixed with vintage or something of their own. What looks good to me now are printed pants, a bare-colored sandal, sunglasses with ombre lenses, and a great handbag.
L.A. fashion is definitely improving. Girls are dressing very, very sharp, very imaginatively these days. In the past, L.A. was primarily junior stuff and quick turnaround garments, but as far as serious fashion goes, no one looked to us for that. When I started out here I didn’t really know any other designers, but a lot of people are becoming designers now, like stylists. For whatever reason, the field seems a lot more accessible than it did four or five years ago. A lot of press are looking at Hollywood, at television, and celebrities are wearing L.A. designers where they used to wear Armani. They’re looking to turn up in something nobody’s seen before, which is why I have a lot of celebrity clientele, not because I’m such a great designer! I don’t have a fashion philosophy — I’m not that serious — but my influences are buildings, art, people on the street, people in traditional cultural dress. It’s interesting to me to take two elements that don’t go together and put them together — like Asian and Victorian, an Indian sari with a denim jacket.
KELLIE DELKESKAMP, partner with
JOHN CHERPAS in Josephine Loka
There’s no expression like there is here. New York is so tight, they want labels, labels, labels, and in Paris too, and it seems so conservative. There’s no way you can beat L.A. for color and theme and style. Besides Japan, it’s the best place to be for fashion. Everywhere you go now you can see the roots of L.A. style — the knapsack thrown over the shoulder, the sporting look, California at its best. In New York, even when they want vintage, they want it to cost $2,000 and be totally rock ’n’ roll, but here we do the same thing for cheap. We’re into throwaway fashion. We don’t care. You can wear a fake-fur jacket and tennis shoes and be totally fine.
PHILLIP LIM, Development
The L.A. look has always been very sexy, very hip. I see more and more independent labels here coming into their own, because stylists are always looking for fresh new ideas, some alternative to Prada, something no one else is wearing. We’re small, we don’t have a thousand people out there pounding the pavement to see what’s hot, so we have to do what we feel. Fashion in general is very Hollywood, very starlet-centered. It’s not dark and avant-garde now — it’s tight leathers and sheer stuff, very Dolce & Gabbana. But a must-have item is a denim jacket, whether old or new, or tried and true. It just has to reflect your personality and look great.
JONATHAN MEIZLER, partner with
GERMÁN VALDIVIA in JonValdí
I look at L.A. as more of a non-fashion statement: People define themselves as individuals. There are definitely trends that people follow, but it’s more of a casual trend than in New York. Contemporary fashions and sportswear and lightweight stuff are kind of dictated by weather, and L.A. is more of a resort town. You have certain colors that prevail, and jeans and leather will always be around, and then you go from there. And there’s an overt, in-your-face sexuality that you find in L.A. Women here enjoy exposing themselves when they dress. A few seasons ago, it was no color, now it’s all color. After the ’90s, people were really ready for something different — optimism, wealth, e-commerce. continued
PAUL FRANK, Paul Frank Industries
I picture L.A. with two different fashions: all the people who work in the ad business and movie production who wear a lot of black, a lot of leather, a “Hey, babe” kind of thing, then the people in Silver Lake, Beck or somebody, who wear faded corduroy Levi’s, a tight ’70s shirt with an old graphic. I dream of that look. I don’t think of things in terms of years. The body is the body, and what looks more flattering — low-cut pants with a slight flare for women — is always the question. Nowadays you can wear Gucci sandals with old corduroys, and that’s great. It’s much better than all the fashion rules my mother used to put out — no plaids with stripes, always match. There’s a lot more freedom now.
People think L.A. is only about T-shirts and shorts and bathing suits, but that is so wrong. Actually, there is no L.A. style — people may wear slipdresses all year round, but that’s the only difference. Things are so globalized now, there’s no real unified look to any city anywhere. Everything’s on the Net, and everything’s connected.
Things have to look really done, or they have to look really thrown together. Of course, if it’s done, it can’t look like it’s done. It’s all about wearing luxury casually — wearing a little beaded dress with hair that looks like you just stepped out of a shower, wearing stilettos with a Bettie Page haircut. Young people are subverting wealth like that. But it’s not just happening here, it’s happening globally — young people are much more aware of fashion, whether they live here or in an igloo in Alaska. What does happen here is that women 20 to 50 want the same things, though they wear them differently. They have good bodies, and they want to show them off.
The prevailing “look” in L.A. is divided east and west. People might buy the same designer item, but they’ll wear it very differently. On the Westside, a woman might buy a little cashmere sweater and pencil skirt, then wear it with a denim jacket and lip gloss. An Eastside girl might wear the same sweater and skirt with a rhinestone belt and a vintage rabbit-fur jacket. L.A. fashion is about freedom: You can wear jeans anywhere if you want, and it’s almost always T-shirt weather, but at the same time the concentration of the entertainment industry and nightlife provides a lot more opportunities for really dressing than in other cities. Fashion becomes about individual expression more than any need to obey a certain code.
MICHELE BOHBOT, Bisou Bisou
Before, L.A. fashion was very cheesy, not very happening, because it was not very urban. But I found out in the last year that fashion is all coming from L.A. The trends right now — asymmetrical lines, open backs, a woman showing all — come from L.A. designers who really didn’t have a presence before. I’m European, and I’ve seen trends in Milan, Paris, London, but what I see over there are things that started here. What’s changed is that women from different places are starting to be more body-conscious, like California girls have always been, so fashion is more fitted, more feminine — the Hollywood-style glamour.
NATHALIE MARCIANO, Nathalie M
and Charles David shoes
The L.A. look, the whole freedom of style, is coming on strong now. People here are not scared about what other people are going to say. Women are going for the feminine look, the sculpted heel. High heels get a lot of flack, but girls want to feel sexy, they want to feel good. By the way, platforms are not over. For the last six years, they’ve been coming back season after season. I have a feeling that Western boots will be back in a big way.
The look of L.A. is about color. Black head to toe just isn’t it anymore — it’s kind of passé. People can wear plain Earl jeans with a great top and great accessories. You can be plain, but you have to have a great handbag. What’s really selling are not mass-produced clothes. Small designers are bigger because they’re more timeless, more unique. If you buy a great hat at a small place, you always have a great hat. Also, people like to look at what people are wearing on TV, and TV actors are all wearing L.A. designers — stylists come to shops like mine and get stuff, and it goes across the world. We have lots of ruffles and ornamentation now, but I think it’ll get cleaner. If everything’s cyclical, that’s what’s going to happen.