Ah, the City of Angels. Sunny, warm Los Angeles, with its star-studded streets, convertible cars and open spaces. It’s a far cry from New York City, where you’ll find harried New Yorkers speed walking to their next destination (another day where the subway doesn’t work and traffic is terrible).
The chill vibes of LA has also lured big name designers to showcase their collections under the palm trees. Tom Ford led the charge by moving his fall 2015 show to LA. Heidi Slimane followed suit with the glitzy, rock-and-roll Saint Laurent Fall 2016 runway show. February 2017 also saw Rebecca Minkoff, Tommy Hilfiger and Rachel Zoe skipping past New York Fashion Week in favor of showing their collections in LA. In recent news, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri has also announced plans to show Dior’s upcoming cruise collection in LA come May 11.
What this tells us is that designers are starting to get tired of the same old shtick. The designers moving to LA are not just exploring a new creative route outside the usual traditions of fashion week, they are also affirming LA as a significant fashion market. While this laidback city might not yet match up to New York’s formidable fashion history and reputed cultural currency, LA is well on it’s way to establishing itself as the fashion capital of the West Coast.
What’s truly interesting about the LA fashion scene is the concentration of digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs or otherwise known as v-commerce brands) that have used LA’s celebrity-driven culture as a springboard into success. This is a place where there is incredible growth to be had via direct-to-market online sales, and the robust fashion manufacturing infrastructure available in the city is also a significant advantage to rolling out small, high quality collections at the drop of a hat. A common thread in how these LA brands differentiate themselves is their focus on sustainable practices (from material sourcing to manufacturing to distribution to recycling) through tight control over their supply chains.
So who’s making a name for themselves? Here are the outstanding LA brands that you should keep on your radar:
Our Top Pick
Who doesn’t know about LA’s cult darling? The Reformation is THE benchmark and one to watch. With humble roots as a vintage store, they quickly grew a global e-commerce following with their perfectly priced and designed garments. While continuing to evolve their product line into wedding, swimwear and denim, they are also doing a lot of experimentation around store formats with tech-enabled features that address the pain points of traditional brick-and-mortar retail. They’ve hit the sweet spot of fashion, and we’ve gotta say, the future’s looking quite bright for them.
The Reformation isn’t the only womenswear brand making waves. LPA the Label and Staud are both taking the insouciant vibe of the SoCal girl and giving it a modern life in sassy dresses, tops and bottoms. RE/DONE is famous for giving vintage Levi’s denim new life by repurposing them into more fitted and modern silhouettes. Amour Vert utilizes 100% sustainable materials and has made the social promise of planting a tree with every tee sold. LA-based fashion influencer leveraged on her strong social media following to launch The Line by K and aims to dress women of all body types.
From the boardwalk to the skater park, the men of LA boast a fluid style that combines relaxed fits with a large dose of swag. Casual, devil-may-care looks dominate, but these men do not skimp on quality and comfort. John Elliot and Fear of God are cult names in men’s streetwear that have amassed praise from just about all demographics, with the former focusing on minimalist cuts with high quality fabrics and the latter merging hip hop with grunge. Streetwear brand Stampd is also a rising dark horse from which we can expect great things e.g. the ongoing Puma X Stampd capsule collections.
That Final Touch
Let’s not forget about accessories! Gladys Tamez Millinery makes superb hats to adorn sun-streaked locks by hand. To protect your sensitive eyes from the beach sun, Crap Eyewear and Ahlem Eyewear deliver trendy sunglasses at the mid and accessible luxury prices.
It should still be said that not all’s sunshine and mimosas for LA brands. The past 6 months have seen the bankruptcy woes of American Apparel, BCBG Max Aria and Nasty Gal take center stage. Morale of this story? One can never be too comfortable in this volatile retail/e-commerce market, especially when customers are spoilt for fashion choice. It’s a battle royale for the loyalty of the capricious customer that oftentimes takes place in the digital media arena.
My own two cents: as long as LA brands speak to my soul on everything beautiful, unique and sustainable, I’ll be keeping my wallet under lock and key to stop myself from going on a west coast shopping spree!