Within three years of launching her personal street-wear line, Julie Kucharski found her designs on two of Hollywood’s most revered cultural icons: Beyoncé and Rihanna. Now in its fifth year of existence, Kucharski’s brand, Left Hand L.A., manages to perfectly blend ’90s grunge nostalgia with that new-school streetwear spirit. Her one-of-a-kind pieces are made from thrifted finds—oversized cotton sweatshirts, faded denim—that she elevates with eclectic patchwork and a mix of air-brushed and screen-printed type. It’s a brand that feels distinctly Angeleno, bringing together elements from different decades and different styles to create pieces anyone can flaunt. We caught up with Kucharski to get some insight into her creative process and what it takes to start your own line.
How did your career in the fashion industry get started?
I’ve been making my own clothes for as long as I can remember. I went to college for design but realized school wasn’t for me. I got a job, saved my money, and moved to Los Angeles shortly after. I was working at a local boutique, and one of the store owners saw a pair of jeans I made and asked me to make them in bulk for his store in Japan called Gr8. Three years later Left Hand is now my full-time job, and I get to do what I love every day.
Who are your style muses?
TLC, 3LW, Britney Spears, J. Lo, Dennis Rodman, Young Thug, the Backstreet Boys, Ying Yang Twins, Sita Bellan, and Rihanna, of course. The list goes on.
Music-wise, who are you currently listening to?
Tommy Genesis on repeat always. I love Justin Bieber and Shania Twain; I’m really excited to hear Paris’s new album. And the new Gunna album is really good too. Also Any early 2000s throwback will get me singing and dancing in the mirror.
Where are some of your favorite places to thrift in L.A.?
What are some of your favorite L.A.-based brands?
I love G. Schwan, obviously, Tony Camero, Chinatown Market, Warren Lotas, Rufcut, No Sesso, Slim Jawn. There are so many good L.A.-based brands, small and big. I love watching fashion grow in the United States. I went to school in London and art is embraced by everyone in Europe. I love seeing the same thing happening in the U.S. nowadays. I remember when boys used to only wear the same five things their moms bought them from Old Navy. Now menswear is even bigger than women’s.
Describe the Left Hand L.A. style in three words.
One of one.
Describe your creative process. How do you go about imagining and creating new pieces?
I drink so much coffee and have a gummy bear obsession. I work best at night, with loud music, or a girly Netflix series, playing puzzle pieces with patches and blanks. Left Hand is way more fun than other brands because it’s all hands-on and one-of-a-kind. Sometimes I come up with ideas before I execute them, but most of the time I come up with something genius while I’m playing around late night in my studio.
I know you’ve said that having Rihanna wear one of your designs was on your bucket list. How did you make this happen and how did you respond once you heard the news?
I had a friend that styled her, I made a bunch of pieces and gifted them and just got lucky. It happened months after the gifting and I thought she would never wear the pieces. I literally freaked out when she wore it. All of my friends and family flooded my phone immediately congratulating me. I had butterflies, like the same way I felt the first time I fell in love.
Who do you dream about wearing your pieces?
Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, Dolly Parton, President Obama, the Queen of England. I would love to get some overalls on the little Yodeling Boy. But I have so many celebrities I wanna dress I could go on forever.
What drew you to L.A. and what’s your favorite part about living here?
I’ve always wanted to live in L.A. since I was a little girl. I love the fashion here; it’s so colorful and crazy. When I was in ninth grade I’d stay up way past my bedtime stalking Los Angeles photoblogs like the cobra snake admiring everyone’s outfits and tattoos. The best part about living here is the weather and the resources. It’s literally perfect all day, every day, 365 days a year. And for a designer, downtown L.A. has so many hidden gems. Wash houses, thrift stores, Santee Alley. I love that I’ve lived here for almost five years and there’s still so much undiscovered territory.
What has been the hardest thing about starting your own line?
Wow, that’s a great question. It’s not the money because you can buy things at the thrift store and turn them into masterpieces. I would say the hardest thing for me was putting my art out there for everyone to judge and critique, but you get over that. I’m kinda shy about my designs, Left Hand is literally my baby, and I’m very protective. But all it takes is a little confidence and validation from a few friends to keep going. Also, starting a brand in a small city is practically impossible unless you’re traveling a lot. Networking is so important, especially with the evolution of the internet.
Any advice to young designers?
When someone pushes you down, get back up, brush it off and keep going. Never ever give up. And make sure you go to your local thrift store at least once a week. Oh, and doodle a little bit every day—you’ll thank me, I promise.