Lately, industry insiders have been attending burgeoning – albeit influential – fashion weeks outside of the usual London, Milan, Paris and New York quadrivium. Cities like Stockholm, Copenhagen, Seoul and Moscow are producing innovative talent and thriving fashion scenes of their own. Yet in recent years, all eyes seem to be pointing towards the West Coast, as one city continues to buzz about the style sphere more than any other: Los Angeles.
Condescending attitudes on LA’s cultural affluence, especially from its East Coast rival, has existed for years, like it was once retorted in Woody Allen’s cult 1977 New York rom-com Annie Hall, “I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” But the stereotype of the City of Angels’ beachwear, Botox and botched peroxide hair jobs is subsiding, as a new wave of designers and tastemakers are continuously calling the Californian capital both their home and workplace.
Perhaps best known for hosting a number of big-name denim and fast-fashion manufacturers – Guess, Seven For All Mankind, American Apparel and J Brand, to name a few – the palm tree-laden city was faced with a substantial juncture back in 2012 when Saint Laurent’s Creative Director, Hedi Slimane, relocated the storied French house from Paris to LA, a daring move that left many industry professionals raising their well-plucked eyebrows in disbelief. In a rare interview with Vogue back in 2013, the reclusive designer cited his desire to strike a balance between “the contemporary world” (his Los Angeles studio) and “the church, the pure tradition” of Paris as reasoning for the exodus.
Slimane’s conjunction of influences at Saint Laurent has flagrantly transformed the label from bourgeois, caviar-crunching formalwear into something far more modern and accessible that echoes a variety of LA-inflected styles (‘70s Sunset Strip glam-rock, Laurel Canyon hippie, grunge, etc.)
But if a house as iconic as Saint Laurent moving its studio from Paris to Los Angeles was a milestone moment for the industry, the actions of various other designers in recent times imply that Slimane was definitely onto something. Last year, Tom Ford waived the European runways to showcase his FW15 womenswear collection in Hollywood instead. Held smack dab in the middle of London Fashion Week and during the weekend of the Academy Awards, the presentation was attended by Tinsel Town glitterati and New York editors and buyers, who took brief asylum in the sunny SoCal city before returning to the Big Apple’s face-numbing temperatures. Following suit were Louis Vuitton’s Nicholas Ghesquière, who held his 2016 resort show in Palm Springs last May and most recently Slimane himself, who presented his FW16 menswear show at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard.
When it comes to streetwear and young creatives, for many, being based out of Los Angeles is a no-brainer. Everyone from classic brands such as The Hundreds, FUCT and Undefeated, to contemporary trailblazers Fear of God, Odd Future and Joyrich call the city home, as do many of the USA’s most influential retailers. “The energy of the younger people is heavily re-routing to LA,” says Guillermo Andrade, founder of LA’s tastemaker go-to store 424 on Fairfax. “There is real opportunity here. There are no set rules on how to succeed in any industry. It’s a double-edged sword though, it can and will easily chew you up and spit you out. Los Angeles is the glitch in the matrix.”
But what specifically has drawn bigger name designers to Los Angeles? Well, from a marketing standpoint, celebrity certainly has something to do with it. Ever since Anna Wintour took the throne at American Vogue, celebrities have been instrumental in publicizing a designer’s work. But a “celebrity” these days exists beyond Hollywood and red carpet events; the prominence of blog stars and their perfectly-curated social media accounts has amassed an even bigger circle of tastemakers, many of whom reside in LA.
Another factor aiding the City of Angels’ cause? Happiness. With its relatively cheap rents, perpetually flawless weather, natural landscapes and thriving food and art scenes, Los Angeles has always been a city with a focus on a higher quality living – something New York is seriously lagging behind in. “LA has the perfect chill-to-work ratio attributed to its geographical location,” says Jay Yoo, the retail director of one of the city’s hottest concept stores, Wild Style LA. “There is this effortless cool factor; a sort of unencumbered lifestyle driven by personal tastes rather than a necessity to battle the elements on a daily basis. It’s sexy and designers are tapping into it.”
Better quality of living, a plethora of high-profiled personalities and an overall essence of “cool.” While these traits seem like promising incentives for LA in becoming a major style destination, are they enough for it to become a full-fledged fashion capital? Sure, the city is home to the rich and famous, but they aren’t being featured on street style blogs or seen strolling through the streets in designer garb very often; literally, nobody walks in LA. Also, the city lacks NYC’s editorial infrastructure and media institutions, hence hindering LA’s ability to promote and report what’s happening locally.
New York is both lauded and parodied for being a revolving door when it comes to viewpoints on style, but that’s because the city offers tons of ways for people to connect and express their personal tastes, which of course change on a monthly basis. Los Angeles is a completely different ballgame. Because of its vast size, complex layout and lack of public transportation, you spend the majority of your time in a car – not exactly ideal for meeting new people or discovering new things.
So the question remains: does Los Angeles contain all of the necessary elements to sustain a complete fashion ecosystem? Well, it’s hopeful, but I think that in order for a city to truly warrant fashion capital status, there needs to be actual seasons. Sadly, not everyone’s weatherman can proudly shout “72 and sunny!” on a daily basis, so the wardrobe variety for a consistently perfect climate might be a bit limited (and we do love a good fur coat).
Also, fashion week. While the recent trend of designers bringing their shows to LA is certainly something to applaud, in order for the SoCal capital to be taken seriously on the fashion calendar, it needs to promote and time its own fashion week accordingly. When I spoke with the anonymous designer behind buzzy avant-minded label 69, they briefed, “In our humble opinion, this could be possible if fashion week started in LA, before NYFW. This would be fresh because all the new, cutting-edge designers who work in LA could and would want to show here instead of hauling everything to NYFW; in addition this would probably attract more designers located all over the globe to show their new collections here.”
Well, if the pattern persists, who knows, maybe LA Fashion Week will be a routine event typed into an editor’s Google calendar. We sure wouldn’t mind; we’d take sunglasses and sunscreen over runny noses and mountainous layering any day.
- Feature Image:Will Nichols