These 50 Designers Are Defining the New L.A. Aesthetic

Buying local is the only way to buy

There’s a satisfaction that comes with buying local. Civic pride swells when someone lusts after the table you picked up from a woodworker in Elysian Valley or the hand-shaped surfboard you commissioned from a guy in Hermosa Beach. To know Los Angeles is to know its artisans: Whether you’re looking for eco-friendly fashion, customizable chocolates, or neon wall art, we’re here to help you discover them.

The Nostalgists

1. Revamp Vintage

Annamarie von Firley makes men’s and women’s clothing from patterns that span the 1910s through the 1950s—everything from zoot suit-style trousers to sundresses.

2. Don Ville

Raul Ojeda has come a long way from shining shoes at the Century City mall. Besides running the repair shop Willie’s Shoe Service (he apprenticed there in his twenties), Ojeda is behind the custom footwear line Don Ville in Mid Wilshire. His work commands top dollar—a bespoke pair starts at $6,500—but devoted followers swear it’s worth it. Hundreds of hours of conceptualizing and a minimum of four fittings guarantee the final product will fit like a glove—er, boot.

3. Old Focals

If you’ve ever admired Don Draper’s eyewear, it’s likely you can snag a similar pair from Russ Campbell’s shop (he supplied the frames for Mad Men). Campbell’s own designs recall eras of yore.

4. Orchestrations

Jack Cousin, a bassist with the L.A. Phil, carves pens inspired by music. One model is inlaid with reclaimed wood from Disney Hall’s stage.

5. Single Stone

Husband-and-wife duo Ari and Corina Madilian place antique gems in vintage settings for I’ve-never-seen-anything-like-that results.

6. Modernica

Molded fiberglass furniture nearly went the way of the dodo in the ’80s, but Modernica has kept the design alive since 1999. Each hand-pressed shell chair meets the original specifications
of Charles and Ray Eames.

7. Shareen Vintage

“L.A. attracts people who want to stand out. My client has always been a girl who likes to turn a head. There is little in a department store that can compete with what the past has already offered.” – Shareen Mitchell, owner

8. The Great

Denim mavens Emily Current and Meritt Elliott return to the basics with their latest line. Expect familiar throwbacks such as the “college sweatshirt,” a campus staple.

9. Luke Hobbs Design

Hobbs’s touch-sensor lamps, which turn on when you tap a decorative flourish (an owl, say), are sure to elicit oohs and aahs.

10. Danc Surfboards 

“Every board I make is custom. By working hands-on with an individual, we can figure out how to fit their surfing needs and their home break. I invite every customer to join me in the shaping room.” – Dan Cobley, owner

The Purists

11. The Little Friends of Printmaking

The work of Wisconsin natives JW and Melissa Buchanan is inspired by the California sunlight. Their new series is printed on gold foil paper and uses reflective gold ink.

12. Compartés Chocolatier

Jonathan Grahm’s cacao confections could be art—and a neon sign in the shop says so. The 67-year-old company’s bars get all of the Insta-love, but we’re partial to the cocoa-coated “Love Nuts.”

13. Flores Lane

Each hand-poured candle is inspired by a Los Angeles hood. Take “DTLA,” for instance, which smells of tobacco and bayleaf. (Wouldn’t that be nice?)

14. James Trussart Custom Guitars

“I’m a small builder, so my guitars go into really interesting hands—I sold one to Reeves Gabrels, who tours a lot with the Cure. But when we met, he was with David Bowie.” – James Trussart, owner

15. The Stronghold

Founded in 1895, the Stronghold was L.A.’s first locally manufactured denim brand; You can spot Charlie Chaplin in its overalls in 1936’s Modern Times. It still produces the shuttle-loomed, indigo-dyed selvage denim today.

16. Burritos La Palma & Los Cinco Puntos

Tortilla eaters hew to one camp: flour or corn. But Burritos La Palma’s wheat variety and Los Cinco Puntos’s masa versions—both hand formed—will have sticklers crossing enemy lines.

17. Art of Tea

Steve Schwartz imports organic teas and botanicals from all over the world, then hand-blends them in his Monterey Park workspace (you can buy online). His Mandarin Silk oolong—a mixture of Pouchong tea leaves, lemon myrtle, marigold, and vanilla—has won awards.

18. Stephen Kenn

It took Stephen Kenn a few tries to find his calling. After his denim and leather companies folded, he landed on his current vocation, furniture design, in 2011 and is proof that the third time’s the charm. The Angeleno-by-way-of-Canada sources each component of his minimalist pieces—steel-welded frames, military upholstery, hand-sewn stability belts—from artisans within ten miles of his DTLA studio, where he oversees the finished product, be it a $1,000 side table or a $7,500 hand-dyed-indigo sofa.

19. Strange Invisible Perfumes

Alexandra Balahoutis blends, bottles, and sells at her lab and boutique on Abbot Kinney. She opts for natural botanicals and an Esprit de Cognac base layered with organic essential oils.

20. Sugar Paper

“Do you remember who wrote on your Facebook wall for your birthday? Me neither. I do remember the card my husband gives me each year. Letters get tucked away and saved. Stationery is an extension of personal style.” –Chelsea Shukov, cofounder

The Ethicists

21. Local + Lejos

“We identify trends in home decor, then work to find countries that specialize in that craft. Quality, communication, and reliability are important—our goal is to create sustainable jobs for our artisans.” – Sheeva Sairafi, founder

22. LocoL

When Tony Konecny signed on with LocoL, Roy Choi’s restaurant in Watts, he set out to make Intelligentsia-quality coffee at a McDonald’s price. (Konecny founded Tonx, a now-defunct coffee subscription service.) For LocoL’s program, Konecny sources beans from a coffee co-op and former Tonx partner in Peru, though he keeps the exact process hush-hush. His efforts have yielded artisanal coffee at a nonartisanal cost: one dollar flat—0.49 cents less than a McCafé.

23. Christy Dawn

Local artisans sew the vintage-inspired dresses in Dawn’s line, which are made entirely of limited-edition deadstock fabrics (excess material thrown out by fashion houses). Not only are the frocks covetable, but they minimize industry waste and environmental impact.

24. Youth to the People

“The cold-pressed juicing revolution. We loved the idea of juicing green superfoods and applying the benefits (antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, enzymes) to keeping skin healthy and youthful.” – Joe Cloyes and Greg Gonzalez, founders

25. Blake Avenue

Joe Reihsen champions furniture that’s meant to last, plus it’s sustainable. He uses only reclaimed materials, like the wood from 1,500-year-old trees.

26. Liza Shtromberg Jewelry

Shtromberg works with conflict-free diamonds and recycled metals to counter the destructive aspects of mining—principles she picked up during a year-long environmental studies program in Israel.

27. August

Compact and collapsible carryalls wed a globe-trotting sensibility with West Coast sophistication. The DTLA brand has partnered with Operation School Bell to donate one backpack to a local student in need for every bag sold.

28. The Giving Keys

Caitlin Crosby’s online “social enterprise” hires those transitioning out of homelessness to make wearable keys etched with words like brave and courage.

29. Dermalogica

The Carson-based skin care line has given scholarships to girls in 15 countries and launched programs to help women across the globe increase their earning power.

30. Malibu Honey

Would you like a side of philanthropy with that honey? A $30 donation made via the company’s site buys one beehive for a farmer whose crops could use the pollination.

The Outliers

31. Bowlus Road Chief

The sleek traveler was created by Spirit of St. Louis designer Hawley Bowlus in 1934. He made 80 of them before returning to aircraft design; today entrepreneur Geneva Long reproduces the trailers in Oxnard. They start at a cool $137K.

32. Offerman Woodshop

Nick Offerman (yes, the actor) has run a woodshop in Atwater Village since 2001. He and his team whittle goods as small as mustache combs and as large as canoes.

33. Nick Fouquet

Mad hatter? More like rad hatter. At his Venice shop, Fouquet fashions beaver felt toppers for men and women in a 20-step process.

34. Obey Giant

Shepard Fairey, the artist and owner of the Subliminal Projects gallery, stocks iconic “Obey Giant” stickers and large-format  prints of original works at his online store.

35. Specialty Dry Goods

Edie Kahula Pereira parlayed a master’s in architecture into handmade goods (sold online). Leather, linen, and canvas pot holders are signatures; she crafts purses and overnight bags, too.

36. Friend Mart

“Ninety percent of my work has an L.A. backdrop or is influenced by 1970s Venice Beach. L.A. is colorful and beautiful, but it’s also kind of junky and dirty. It’s not too clean; it’s not too much like paradise.” – Tuesday  Bassen, cofounder

37. Kiss My Neon

Katherine Anne Good has loved art since high school, but it wasn’t until 2012, when she took a class with local neon sculptor Lili Lakich, that the 36-year-old found her calling. She now runs the Web hub Kiss My Neon, which offers made-to-order fluorescent works as well as finished pieces, the latter inspired by L.A.’s sunsets and art deco relics. Good’s signage starts at $500—not too shabby for one-of-a-kind wall art.

38. The Hundreds

Bobby and Ben Hundreds’s Fairfax storefront has been an L.A. streetwear icon since 2003. They’re known for their collabs with other brands, and each line of tees, hoodies, and hats is produced in small quantities (you can also check eBay).

39. The Spirit Guild

The “farm-to-glass” distillery ferments, distills, and blends its booze on DTLA’s Mateo Street. Take a tour to view the process up close.

40. Native Tile and Ceramics

“We create patterns inspired by Malibu Pottery and Taylor, Batchelder, and Catalina designs, among others. You can’t tell the difference from the originals, which is what people who fall in love with a particular period want.” – Diana Mausser, founder

The Innovators

41. The Mighty Company

The jackets in Jessie Willner’s custom collection meld old-school structure with new-school twists: neon lettering, studded embellishments, and painted portraits.


Spencer Nikosey’s luxe workshop hawks durable, deliciously monochromatic products ranging from hand-laced leather footballs to fur-lined accessories cases.

43. This Is Ground

These techy goods are beautiful and functional. Vegetable-tanned “Tech Dopp Kits” keep cords organized, while leather rolls hold styluses, eyeglasses, and more.

44. The California Workshop

Michael Towey’s origami linen lamps are updated interpretations of George Nelson’s and Isamu Noguchi’s iconic designs. This “9612-010 Chair”—the lightest natural-fiber seat in the world—was born from poplar plywood, hemp cloth, and three years of trial and error.

45. Betsey Carter Ceramics 

“I moved here from Charleston, and I now find the aesthetic of L.A. weaving its way into my work: richer colors, more angular shapes, and a more relaxed and casual look.” – Betsey Carter, founder

46. Luno

The company specializes in “furniture for music lovers,” like this record console that houses a minibar with gold-rimmed whiskey glasses. It’s also Apple AirPlay compatible (in case that vinyl’s just for show).

47. Chris Earl

What self-respecting adult wouldn’t want a walnut-and-brass tic-tac-toe board? Earl lends a stylish touch to the tabletop game—and to his furniture and ceramics lines—made in his NoHo home.

48. Rule of Three

Paige Cleveland applies marbling  to home goods by floating paints atop water—allowing the colors to interact—and then transferring the emulsion to silk and leather.

49. OTAAT Leather Goods

“Architecture taught me how liberating structure and logic can be. Identifying a challenge—and then finding humor and fun in it—can start a playful, outlandish, yet totally logic-based journey.” – Albert Chu, founder

50. Gabriela Artigas

In 2003, after moving from Mexico City to study at Otis College of Art and Design, Artigas launched a jewelry line; her sister, Teresita (left), came on board five years later. Now their pieces are produced downtown and sold internationally as well as locally (at their La Cienega showroom and unconventional shops like Broome Street General Store). Delicate rings, cuffs, and pendants are set with semiprecious and precious stones.

Portraits by Diana Koenigsberg

Contributors: Leilah Bernstein, Sean Fitz-Gerald, Julia Herbst, Ann Herold, Linda Immediato, Niree Noel, Jessica Ritz, Julia St. Pierre, Lesley Bargar Suter

Marielle Wakim is the Arts and Culture Editor at Los Angeles magazine. She went viral once, which is not how she thought she’d spend her 15 minutes of fame. You can follow her on Twitter @mariellewakim, on Instagram @marielle.m.n.o.p, and on her website. She wrote Journey Into Patton Oswalt’s Impossibly Nerdy Mind