West Coast designers are making a splash in fashion

“It doesn’t feel like a city to me that you decide to move to,” says Los Angeles-based designer Reese Cooper. “You spend enough time there until you realize it’s irresponsible to be somewhere else.”

Not only does Cooper now call the city home, but his eponymous clothing label is based there as well. He lives in the gritty downtown neighborhood and often drives an hour away on weekend excursions with his girlfriend. You can see glimpses of that life in his designs, which are a mix of outdoor wear, streetwear and workwear. Cooper also utilizes his adoptive hometown’s solid manufacturing infrastructure, with nearly everything he plans to do within a 10-mile radius, he says.

Cooper is one of many new designers making a name for themselves on the West Coast. There is Josué Thomas of the Gallery Dept in West Hollywood, and Eli Russell Linnetz of ERL in Venice Beach. Further away, in San Francisco, Evan Kinori designs a clothing line of the same name and recently opened his shop there. The retail scene was also active. In 2020, acclaimed Belgian designer Dries Van Noten opened his first US flagship store in Los Angeles, in a large art building in West Hollywood. The Bode label opened its second store there, four times the size of its original New York location, in February.

A model crouches, wears a black fur jacket, white hoodie, and pants.  on the floor is a multicolored handbag

Josué Thomas’ Gallery Dept includes recycled garments and references to thrift and vintage

Los Angeles, with its laid-back, unbridled energy, is the perfect host for young and enterprising designers looking to make a sensation beyond established fashion capitals. Cooper says that while in some cities it can be difficult to make connections as a newcomer to the fashion industry, she found it easy to make her way to Los Angeles. “Once I was here, it was some quick introductions to, like, a friend who makes hoodies. Or you go to the dry cleaners and they say “Oh, we do denim too.” Things go downhill quickly “.

Thomas of the Gallery Dept grew up in Los Angeles and his work is imbued with the city’s love of vintage and thrift. He took an artisanal approach, creating recycled garments that are splattered with paint, faded from the sun, cut and reassembled or embellished with patches. Resembling wearable art, they have become part of the uniform of the city’s creative class.

“There’s a manufacturing history here,” he says, noting that much of his collection is locally produced. “There are a lot of resources. I think there is a freedom and a good space to develop something. “Perhaps because this is where the film industry is based, Los Angeles has long attracted dreamers and hungry for glamor. Thomas says:” You can move to Los Angeles and be anyone . It’s part of that creative magic ”.

Evan Kinori stands on a white background.  He has dark hair and is wearing a black and white striped top and dark pants

San Francisco-based Evan Kinori specializes in workwear silhouettes. . . © ULY Inc

A model stands with one hand in his pocket.  He is wearing a black and white baseball jacket with brown-orange pants

. . . while Reese Cooper refers to streetwear and outdoor clothing in his locally produced collections

In San Francisco, Kinori has built a company that looks and feels different than what’s happening in Los Angeles – or New York or London or Paris, for that matter. He is decidedly American in his workwear silhouettes, modernized through thoughtful workmanship. “I don’t think California had a literal influence,” says Kinori, who is from Connecticut. “But perhaps living in a place where ‘fashion with a capital F’ doesn’t really exist, I’m allowed to look at clothes with a less trend-oriented perspective.”

That separation makes a difference. Kinori’s clothing and business feel less dictated by the industry’s grueling schedule of showing clothes and shipping them to stores many times a year, and more on creating a model that is small but sustainable and, most importantly, works. for him.

It must be said that in terms of fashion, California – and Los Angeles in particular – is not backward. There is a long and established history there, dating back to Hollywood costume designers like Adrian or Edith Head, who, long before social media, created the most viewed clothing images in the world. The Sunset Strip helped popularize a certain haute hippie and rock star look, in stark and definitive contrast to the more formal New York fare. Further along the coast, Levi Strauss popularized jeans, arguably America’s most important contribution to the fashion lexicon.

A moodboard in a studio displays ideas and designs

A mood board in Evan Kinori’s San Francisco studio © Allen Danze

Recently, however, more traditional fashion houses have taken root and a new generation of designers have built their fortunes under the scorching sun, based on more casual styles: John Elliott, Jerry Lorenzo from Fear of God, Mike Amiri from Amiri. , Rhuigi Villaseñor of Rhude and Greg Chait of The Elder Statesmen just to name a few.

“There is probably some news in making clothes in a city that is more out of the box when it comes to the world of fashion,” says Kinori. “It might be less expected and therefore stand out a bit, but that’s not what I’m here for. It’s just helpful not to see what other people are doing all the time and not to see trendy ways of dressing on the street. ”

Thomas says that when he set out to create less refined, mass-produced clothes with a more one-of-a-kind look, he felt that staying in Los Angeles would benefit him. “I think subconsciously I thought I didn’t have to go to New York or Paris or Milan because it’s so saturated and they have a history of doing things a certain way.” However, Paris has arrived anyway: its brand, Gallery Dept, was chosen by the French maison Lanvin for a highly acclaimed collaboration last year (another collection has just been released).

California is experiencing some struggles, with housing prices, a homelessness epidemic, and the effects of global warming. But it still has a mystique that continues to attract young and carefree creatives. The way of life, with its warm climate and lush golden hour, is fascinating. “I can’t really imagine where I would be,” Cooper says. “The place I get the juice from is downstairs where my outerwear is made. And it’s on my walk to the studio. I can just walk in, tell everyone what’s going on, see how things are going. I don’t think I could do it living anywhere else. ”

Check out our latest stories first – follow @financialtimesfashion on Instagram

Leave a Comment