Desert Fires

The smoky looks—and scents—of Burning Man come to L.A.

Anyone attending Burning Man—the gathering that draws tens of thousands to the Nevada wilderness around Labor Day—knows that function trumps fashion. Attire there has always been influenced by the environment (high desert) and the energy (communal creativity). What’s emerged is an aesthetic that borrows from Fellini and Mad Max and has been co-opted by designers. In this year’s runway shows Rodarte and Rag & Bone displayed torso-baring tops and platform wedges that tower above the dust, while Harper’s Bazaar dubbed Michael Kors’s boho footwear “Park Ave-meets-Burning Man sandals.” The late Alexander McQueen’s floral tutus and pheasant feather skirts also fit the mood. “Anything by McQueen will fly all night at Burning Man,” says Dusty Bacon, whose blog, DustyCouture, celebrates the festival’s looks.

In terms of dress code, Mother Nature is as demanding as Anna Wintour. The 100-degree heat and freezing cold make breathable Lycra and faux fur perennially popular. At Ozzie Dots in Los Feliz, the staff is well versed in outfitting for the extremes. “There were sandstorms at Burning Man last year,” says manager Daniel Hazen, who sees customers shopping as early as May for the event. “We’re stocked up on goggles, and gas masks are always a winner.”

L.A. stylist Tasha Le Mel has designed elaborate unicorn, Cheshire cat, and Louis XVI-era costumes for the festival. Maria Grasso, a TV producer and five-time Burning Man participant, favors cowboy boots, tiaras, slinky ’70s gowns, and flamenco halters. To bring back memories of the smoky nights, Parisian fragrance designer Clement Gavarry has created a scent called Burning Man that is redolent of myrrh, resins, and sandalwood. And for those who want to don Burning Man-appropriate face paint no matter the occasion, Topshop has debuted a line of metallic and faded-neon makeup “that encapsulates the whole experimental festival vibe,” says senior designer Lizzie Dawson. 

Photograph courtesy Getty Images