Is Los Angeles streetwear having a moment? It seems that way, but Chris Gibbs, the influential founder of LA's streetwear retailer of distinction Union (which is known to catapult new brands into the fashion zeitgeist), says it's more than that: "LA is maybe not the birthplace, but it's the home of streetwear right now," he tells me. There are other hubs that have had their own success stories and moments throughout the rise of streetwear as a category, like London, Tokyo and, of course, New York; but right now, there are more promising brands coming out of LA than ever, many of them blurring the ever-thinning line between streetwear and high-fashion.
Fear of God, John Elliott, Unravel and Billy are just a few examples we've already covered, and LA-based Amiri was recently picked up by Net-a-Porter. Brands like The Hundreds, Undefeated, X-Large and Tyler, the Creator's Golf Wang have also helped to establish LA as a breeding ground for streetwear, but a whole new wave of semi-under-the-radar brands are poised to achieve similar levels of success. Gibbs thinks this owes to a perfect storm of the city's casual atmosphere and aesthetic, as well as the fact that it's simply easier and more affordable to live and start a business in LA than in other cities like New York. "I think that goes hand in hand with LA kind of coming into its own in the past five-to-10 years," he says.
Alex James, founder of the buzzy brand Pleasures, echoes that sentiment. "LA is a great place to live and work," he says. "The creative community is super supportive here." Adds Stephen Malbon, founder of Malbon Golf: "Having lived in New York City during the late '90s through 2008, I feel the energy that was so inspiring in the fashion, media, art and food scenes has very much shifted to Los Angeles. Art movements, fashion movements, music and art are all coming out of Los Angeles, and because of the celebrity culture that is so prevalent here, they get recognition quickly."
Read on for 11 LA-based streetwear brands that you'll want to have on your radar this year — if they aren't already.
Alex James and Vlad Elkin launched Pleasures at a gallery pop-up in LA in June 2015. Today, it has more than 80,000 Instagram followers and over 100 retail doors across the globe ranging from Bodega to Dover Street Market. Recently, the brand made waves with a collaboration with the Grateful Dead, and there are many more collabs in the pipeline for 2018. "A lot of clothing is inspired by things that don’t interest me. I wanted to make clothing with a message for people who were like me and my business partner Vlad," explains James over email. "We create clothing based on feelings through past experiences. From your most satisfying memory to the worst feeling of your life, Pleasures is here to remind you that you are accepted."
Madhappy launched online last April and has since built buzz throughout the year with pop-ups in LA, New York and Aspen. Design and business duties are divided between four co-founders: brothers Noah and Peiman Raf, Mason Spector and Joshua Sitt. "We were inspired to start it because we felt there was something lacking in the clothing industry," says Peiman. "Most streetwear brands are closed off, inaccessible, and somewhat dark. We wanted to flip that on its head and be the positive force of streetwear and fashion." Madhappy was one of the last brands to collaborate with Colette, on a very cool "Au Revoir Colette" hoodie pictured above. Peiman promises many more "cool collabs" to come in 2018.
Before it was a retail store and brand, Malbon Golf was an Instagram account of golf-related images that co-founder Stephen Malbon found inspiring. Last summer, he and his wife Erica teamed up to open an experiential retail flagship on Fairfax Avenue that, put simply, aims to make golf culture cool. "Having a history in golf and hip-hop and street culture, it became very clear to me that the cultural divide between the two worlds is vast," says Stephen. "I feel golf is a great sport that is ailing because of the inaccessibility to learn and play."
"Our goal for the brand is to knock down the barriers that Stephen previously mentions," adds Erica. "We do this every day through social media, our experiential retail flagship on Fairfax and our apparel brand and collaborations with brands in golf and fashion." Recent collabs have included Buscemi and Puma, and while the line is only available in the store and Malbon Golf's website, they plan to launch with select retailers worldwide this year.
LA is truly in BornxRaised's DNA. Founder Spanto (yes, one name) was directly inspired by the rapid gentrification his hometown of Venice, CA, when he launched the line in 2013. "I felt like our culture was just stolen from us and we were policed out of our own neighborhood; BornxRaised was a way to keep our culture and traditions alive," he explains, adding: "We went to elementary here; we went to high school here, so did our parents and their parents. We were here during the riots; we were here in the '90s; we were here for all of is, and we speak the true story of how it really was and is. A lot of people speak up for a culture that they were never really a part of, we don't do that." It's carried at Union, counts Kendrick Lamar as a fan and has a collaboration with Converse set to drop next month.
Shane Gonzales combined his interests in clothes and music to launch Midnight Studios in 2014, growing steadily ever since. With a full menswear range, top stockists worldwide and collabs with A$AP Rocky and Guess already under its belt, the brand is poised for growth. Gonzales's goals include runway shows and womenswear. "We want to become an everyday name amongst modern youth and the fashion industry," he says.
Advisory Board Crystals
Advisory Board Crystals might be the most "LA" brand on this list simply because of its association with crystals and the metaphysical. The Spencer Pratt-beloved stones inform the products founders (and former Band of Outsiders employees, according to Vogue) Remington Guest and Heather Haber create; the brand also literally sells them. Launched in 2016, Abc. already counts Colette, Union, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys among its collaborators and stockists.
Mike Amiri founded his namesake line in 2013, inspired by the punk and grunge subcultures of his youth. The line caters to both men and women and is sold primarily in high-end fashion retailers like Maxfield, The Webster and Barneys. It's casual, but not cheap, with a satin bomber retailing for upwards of $2,000. Justin Bieber is among the brand's main celebrity supporters.
Having only launched in late 2017, Cherry LA is still a bit shrouded in mystery, but it's gotten some Instagram influencer action recently being spotted on the likes of Kaia Gerber and Wiz Khalifa. Their signature style, according to Forbes, is a T-Hoodie, featuring a T-shirt sewn over a hooded sweatshirt. Based on Instagram, the brand also painted a house in LA red and dubbed it the Cherryhouse — a dream Instagram shoot backdrop if I've ever seen one.
Launched in 2014 by Rhuigi Villasenor, Rhude has been co-signed by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and Migos. With stockists including Union, Barneys and Ssense, it blurs the line between streetwear and fashion and has become known for pieces featuring cigarette carton-inspired branding. The next collection will debut during Paris market appointments this week.
Despite its name, Chinatown Market is neither located in Chinatown nor is it a market. Though based firmly in LA, the brand was founded by ex-New Yorker Mike Cherman and is inspired by Canal Street; as such, designer bootlegs, er, references feature heavily in its releases, alongside signature shopping bag-inspired "Thank You Have a Nice Day" merch. For instance, the brand embroidered what it called "Goochi" flowers onto products last spring.
424 started as a retailer on LA's streetwear-heavy Fairfax and in 2014, launched an in-house line that has quickly risen in popularity, found fans in stars like Tyga and Kylie Jenner and embarked on collaborations with musicians like The Weeknd and retailers like Barneys.