When it comes to clothing, Los Angeles is more often associated with caftans and casual denim than haute couture — but that might not be true for long. A new wave of innovative, high-fashion designers has eschewed New York in favor of the fairer coast, and titans from the world of popular culture are starting to take notice. Despite their small-scale operations, these brands have made fans out of bold-faced names; from RiRi to Isabella Rossellini, everyone is shopping local these days. Here are the five LA-based designers that are redefining “California cool.”
Born and raised in LA, James Flemons grew up inspired by the FUBU, Rocawear, and Sean Jean clothing that kids at his high school wore, and these 1990s brands — along with a wide range of influences that include cowboy aesthetics, punk rock and sci-fi — continue to inform his work today. Vintage details like patchwork and laces make his clothes’ modern silhouettes feel at once nostalgic and fresh, and nowadays the 28-year-old designer — who started his career repurposing denim from thrift stores — spends his days crafting custom looks for the likes of Lil Yachty, Brandy, and (perhaps his biggest fan) Solange. The most impressive part? He makes every piece by hand at his Mid-city home studio.
How to cop: Phlemuns isn’t in stores (yet), but you can shop his new denim capsule online.
2. Eckhaus Latta
If you went to last year’s Made in L.A. exhibit at the Hammer, you might recognize the work of Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, whose sculptural forms and unusual textures have made them one of fashion’s most buzzed-about brands. Latta has been an Angeleno since 2014, and though her creative partner still lives in New York, the duo’s brick-and-mortar store in Arlington Heights has become a quiet LA institution. Their garments attract art kids and A-listers alike — Kendall Jenner, Travis Scott, and Isabella Rossalini have all flaunted Eckhaus Latta fits. Even Kim Kardashian was spotted in head-to-toe EL at a gas station recently — if only we could all stunt this hard on a snack run.
How to cop: Visit their Arlington Heights store, or shop online at Opening Ceremony. You might also have a chance to sport some Eckhaus Latta for free at their open casting call this Friday. It’s okay if you’re not a “model” — the brand’s videos and shows are always diverse.
We can’t tell you who the anonymous designer behind this playful L.A. denim brand is, but here are a few things that we do know:
- 69us first arrived on the L.A. scene in 2011. Its debut collection, “Summer of ’69,” introduced what are now the brand’s staple pieces — the “Everything Dress,” the “Cocoon Dress,” and several other chic-but-cozy denim sacks.
- The person who created the brand has called it a “non-demographic” clothing label, and its main goal is to create looks that work for all genders, races and body types.
- Equal parts stylish and silly, 69’s big blue garments have helped everyone from Amber Rose to Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge feel comfy and cool. Even the Queen Bey herself slayed in 69 once — peep the brand’s cameo in her iconic “Formation” video.
4. No Sesso
No Sesso — which means “no sex” or “no gender” in Italian — is a relative newcomer in the world of L.A. fashion, but designer Pierre Davis is already shaking up the scene in a major way. With a focus on elaborate embroidery and inventive drapery, Davis works to create eye-catching and accessible clothing for a wide range of demographics and genders — especially people, Davis told the FADER, “that often see themselves left out of the luxury design industry.” Erykah Badu, Myikki Blanco, and cellist Kelsey Lu are already on board the No Sesso express, and local Afropunk band Fuck U Pay Us rocked/rocked out in some of their pieces during a recent performance at MOCA.
5. Come Tees
Though Come Tees’ clothing emanates a distinctively casual cool, the brand’s artistry cannot be overlooked — each item of this “conceptual and narrative” clothing line is hand printed with care by its designer, Sonya Sombreuil. Kanye and Rihanna have been donning the DIY darling’s intricate, wearable comic books for a few years now, and these days the brand’s small batches of jeans and T-shirts are selling out fast.