Photograph by Misha Gravenor
Calleen Cordero (above) has sold shoes, bought them for a store, and dreamed them up for other companies. At her Laurel Canyon home in 1999, she devised her own line, one that has become known for its funky leather and carved-wood heels. Her North Hollywood factory employs 40 or so artisans, who, among other things, press nickel and brass studs into rich leather. The line is headed in a slinkier direction with higher heels and distressed skins. » Available at Calleen Cordero, 7384 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-934-5541.
The leather and hardware are from Italy; the design is straight out of Sherman Oaks. Julie Knapp, who received some schooling in Florence, conceives purses that reflect her life. As a mother of two, she prefers lightweight carryalls with roomy pockets, but as a garment industry vet who grew up working in her parents’ fashion showroom, she insists on chic touches such as brightly colored linings and a balance between hard structure and soft draping. » Available at Dari, 12184 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-762-3274.
The bone-colored briefcase is a glimpse into the mind of Dean owner Danny Dean Davis. The hide is slightly distressed, and the whipstitching and functional buttons recall the rustic west. But the flap, cut diagonally on one side, adds a dash of modernity. Shape is another signature element in the company’s round-handled teardrop purse and rectangular-handled bowling ball bag. Davis uses leather from Italy as well as from secondhand jackets. His old-meets-new work began on his coffee table and grew into a store with an atelier in back. » Available atDean, 3918 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-665-2766.
Rafi Balouzian, the founder of Cydwoq, admits a predilection for ladies’ feet, but when he left an apparel career in 1996 for one that his forebears practiced in Armenia, it was not to make sexy torture devices. Ergonomics and durability are as important to him as looks. Featuring vegetable-dyed leathers, his men’s and women’s shoes bear a distinctive silhouette. Most have a front that rises off the ground, a slightly swollen area above the big toe, and an overall contour that is more rectangular than pointed. The reason is simple: comfort. They also happen to go exceptionally well with the belts and bags Balou-zian offers. » Available at Cydwoq, 2102 Kenmere Ave., Burbank, 818-848-8307.
Holger Gräf was a structural engineer. Daniel Lantz was an optical plastics designer. As Gräf & Lantz, they specialize in felt, a fabric used in Gräf’s native Germany for everything from outerwear to building materials. The West Hollywood couple believed that Gräf’s understated approach would go well with Lantz’s obsession with detail, which he acquired while living for a decade in Japan. They started with the “Quiver,” a tubelike wine holder with leather straps, and branched out to additional carriers as well as handbags and furniture. Lately they have been experimenting with Swiss felt, an undyed, coarser variety. Look closely and you’ll find bits of grass that clung to the grazing sheep’s wool. » Available at Fitzsu Society, 7970 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-655-1908.
The couture mules of Wendy Holden typify L.A.’s high-low aesthetic. Backless with modest heels, they’re almost as casual as flip-flops but are topped with stiff fabric (floral prints, stripes, gingham) that evokes the drapery of Versailles and finished with rosettes, bows, or crystal embellishments. Holden, who studied with the craftsmen behind the costumes of Old Hollywood designers Edith Head and Adrian, sketches out the shoes, sometimes incorporating upholstery material, in her Silver Lake home. » 323-644-1650.
In their downtown studios, designer Angie Myung and filmmaker Ted Vadakan curate limited-edition art that can do double duty holding your driver’s license, a couple of credit cards, and, if you must, some cash. They use a printing transfer process to transform their locally made vinyl Poketo wallets into canvases adorned with work from artists around the globe—everything from sprinting hearts to Afro-sporting karate masters to ice cream sundaes riding roller-coasters. Poketo has graphic tees, stationery, and accessories, too. » Available at Nucleus, 210 E. Main St., Alhambra, 626-458-7482.
Haven’t tried handmade soap? You’re missing out. Soap Kitchen owner Dali Yu can be found cooking up sea salt scrubs and olive oil soaps (no synthetic scents or colors) in the back of her Old Pasadena shop, where sage-colored bars line the wooden shelves. Jolie Chitwood of Mar Vista’s Soaptopia began mixing her own after allergies got the better of her. Chunky, colorful bars with names like “Larry Mynt,” “Ocean’s 12,” and “Fall & Oats” fill the metal racks and infuse the space with the smells of peppermint and eucalyptus. » Soap Kitchen: 43 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626-396-9996. Soaptopia: 12228½ Venice Blvd., Mar Vista, 310-398-8333.
Call it a renaissance: The 15th-century craft of letterpress printing is being adapted to the Twitter age. Instead of hand setting lead type in a press to create an indentation in, say, cotton rag paper, artists are loading digitally rendered designs into vintage machines to produce old-world-quality note cards. Mable Lee and Christen Cutrona’s Dee&Lala line focuses on white space and simple imagery such as owls and candy bowls. Shino and Ken Charlson of Fugu Fugu Press blend an Asian and Scandinavian aesthetic, using bright blocks of soy-based ink; bears are a recurring theme. Jonathan Wright Herpick at Jonathan Wright and Company relies on two presses from the 1800s that are fitted with wood-backed copper dies. And at Soolip, Wanda Wen adds feminine twists: pressed flowers and hand stitching.