“The LA art scene has exploded in the last few years as well [as the fashion scene], with Michael Govan leading the way there at LACMA,” Zee said. “The drive to showcase something unique and out of the box is becoming more apparent all the time in all creative fields in LA.”
In fact many feel that Los Angeles offers designers and artists more creative freedom precisely because it isn’t the epicenter of either of those industries. Whereas in New York there is a already a cemented infrastructure and hierarchy, in a newer city like L.A., emerging and established artists alike have the chance to make it up as they go along.
“If you look at the people choosing to design in LA—Scott Sternberg, the Mulleavy sisters, Hedi Slimane—there’s a reason those particular people are in California,” another New York transplant, Who What Wear’s Beauty Direcotr, Britt Aboutaleb said. “I can’t help but think, based on their totally individual aesthetics and their personalities, that they get off on being sort of isolated. There’s something very freeing about living in a city in which not everyone does what you do; I imagine it really fuels your creativity as a designer.”
Indeed, Scott Sternberg once told the Wall Street Jounral, “If I was here in New York in this mix influenced by the same thing all these people are influenced by, the edge would be gone. This [L.A.] bubble is vital to being able to do something that is not informed by fashion.”
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that L.A. just happens to be on top of one of the key trend-driving forces–whether designers like it or not–in fashion: Hollywood.
“The runway or the red carpet is not where you make your name anymore,” Metchek said. “You make your name by having your name on the tushy of a starlet. Like it or not, what Kim Kardashian is wearing is more improtant than what’s on the runway at Dior.” It sounds like fashion blasphemy, but it probably is true, as much as we hate to say it, that Kim Kardashian drives more actual sales than the luxury garments on the runway. (Whether or not that makes it more important is a different debate).
Perhaps intertwined with the rise of the importance placed on celebrities’ off-duty style, is the fact that global fashion is, as a whole, getting more and more casual. “When you look at what is important in fashion these days, what people are buying, it’s not couture, not custom, not Yves Saint Laurent, but all of it is casual stuff,” Metchek says. We see her point. Most people’s wardrobes are filled with jeans and t-shirts not evening gowns and skirt suits. And of course, if you’re looking for casual cool, then LA is the place to go. But it goes beyond a mere style.
“California is an item business, not a collection business,” Metchek says. In other words, the fashion and retail scene in LA has always focused (and made money) on items–think denim, jersey t-shirts, cocktail dresses, etc. It’s not about presenting the customer with a fully-fledged collection and brand identity. It’s about filling the holes in their wardrobes. And thanks to a rise in consumerism, and the accessibility of fast fashion, that’s precisely the direction the industry, as a whole, is going.