Historically, Los Angeles has not been a center for fashion, but, in the last decade, an increasing number of creative entrepreneurs have moved to the city to work, with plenty of fashion designers among them. Many are transplants from New York and first sharpened their skills within that city's more rigid structure. But Los Angeles provides perks that New York does not, like space, both the physical kind and the kind in your head; time, because a better work-life balance exists, since the cost of living is lower; and finally, a different spirit of generosity. The designers we talked to—all of whom happened to be women—praised a willingness among their community to share the means, methods, and secrets of production in this still-developing design landscape.
From shoes and jewelry to jeans and work and travel wear, these L.A.-based ready to wear lines are pragmatic and minimal, but also stunning—and you will want to pay attention to them all. They often operate outside of the traditional fashion calendar, because L.A. allows designers to work on their own terms and timelines. And, while the fashion industry is not always good to the environment, these designers are thoughtful about their fabrics, where their pieces are produced, and who they hire to make them. More often than not, those decisions are possible because they live in Los Angeles. And, with so much creative headspace, their designs have been able to come fully into their own in L.A., a city whose expansiveness offers an open and inspiring place in which to create.
See what we mean in our spotlights on nine L.A. designers you'll want to know.
Charlotte Stone of Charlotte Stone
Known for: Vibrant color, the Gloria
Working in: Ventura
Pieces she is most excited about from her spring line: The Melle and the Effie, sourced from African prints, via the Netherlands
What was the start of your interest in fashion?
I moved to Los Angeles 18 years ago when I first decided to do shoes. I researched schools all over the world and decided on FIDM in Los Angeles. Afterward, I freelanced for a bunch of small brands and, for seven years, I designed for Joie, doing all of their shoes in multiple countries. I think, working for them and freelancing in general, spurred me to do [my own line]. I wanted to explore color, and in my experience working for big brands, they want their core business to be neutrals. There are always pops of color here and there, but they don’t take it seriously. So I wanted to explore color, texture, and use really good materials—Italian fabrics and leather. I didn’t want to compromise anymore. For three years I both freelanced and did my own line; this is the first year I’ve been completely on my own. My first big hit was The Gloria. Solange bought them and took them on her honeymoon and took pictures, and it was like, Huh, wow! I’ve done them every season, and they always sell like crazy.
What was your inspiration for your spring line?
I started with this weird art school thing, taking all these scraps and putting all these colors together. I made giant studs that look like those paint pots, and then I really wanted to bring in print, which I don’t normally do. I did four authentic Dutch wax prints. I was always drawn to African block prints, they’re so bright and bold and their stories are really interesting. The ones we bought are from Holland, and the Dutch took them to Africa and sold them to women, who totally took them on and put their own stories onto specific prints. There is one print with fans on it, and women who don’t want bad men in their lives wear fans so it blows the men away.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the fashion and design community in Los Angeles?
I feel like I’ve really just started to build a design community for myself. I was so crazed doing full-time freelance and also doing Charlotte Stone for the last three years that I didn’t make the time to reach out to peers or build those important relationships. This year changed everything though. I quit all my freelance work to solely focus on my line, and that’s when I started participating in every pop-up and local makers market that I could. I was able to connect with all these small business owners who were going through the same things I was, and we could commiserate and brainstorm ideas. The networking led to some big opportunities and collaborations, and now I have this great big support system of peers that can offer help or point me in the right direction and vice versa. Running an independent small business is not for the faint of heart, and knowing that I can pick up the phone and have, or give, some friendly advice is invaluable.