Install Theme

Annette Lin

\

Sunshine, sewing and a son: designer Jesse Kam does the work-life balance to perfection

image

If life is all about trying to find a balance, Jesse Kamm might just possibly have the perfect life. She’s based in L.A, but spends a good part of the year in Panama (where she has an eco-friendly place in the postcard-perfect Bocas del Toro). Her place is in a part of the city that’s actually quiet and peaceful - rural, even - and yet only 10 minutes from downtown. In fact, her studio is part of her house, meaning she can split her day pretty comfortably between work and family, consisting of her young son and husband, environmental scientist Lucas Brower.

“It is a great balance,” she says, reflecting on her lifestyle in a thoughtful, sing song-y voice. She says she tried focusing on motherhood for a while - “I took the first year of [my son’s] life off and we moved to Austin, Texas and rented this cabin and had this very rootsy period of just learning about this little person,” but ultimately, “When [my son] was 11 months old, we came back to L.A, and we decided that for me to be happy meant me having my job and being a mom.”

It’s perhaps this balance that enables her to design the way she does. “I feel like fashion can be very… what’s the word, grueling or intense, and when things start to get to be too much, it’s nice to check out and go get your priorities set straight,” she says. To wit, her pieces are bold and yet thoughtful, emphasising design and creativity over trends. The soft, organic palette and dreamy prints mean there is an almost rootsy feel to her pieces - a little bit of nostalgia for her upbringing in Illinois perhaps, mixed with the brightness and modernity of the California girl she is today.

“Growing up in the midwest was very much like… I don’t know, like so many millions of miles away from this world I live in, mentally at least,” she says. Always crafty as a child, she fell into designing after being exposed to racks of beautiful clothes as a model. “[As a model] I always felt like I wanted to be helping pick out the clothes… and so it became clear to me that I really enjoyed that process. I don’t think I ever thought, ‘Hmm, I’m gonna be a fashion designer’. When I stopped modelling I started taking sewing classes and I started drawing and creating and it became very organic.”

Fast forward eight years since she started her eponymous label, billed as ‘luxury’ and ‘artisan’ on the website, and it seems the label’s growth has stayed organic, as she focuses on maintaining the aforementioned balance in life. “I feel like if the collection were bigger and I were to have greater distribution, I wouldn’t have time to do the things I would like to do with [my son]. And maybe when he’s older and he’s in real school, maybe there will be a desire to grow in a different way. But we’re happy here having a small collection.”

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Related links

See the bold designs by Jasmin Shokrian

Read my interview with fellow L.A designer Clare Vivier

See Corinne Grassini of SOciety for Rational Dress’ ultimate California girl style

 

An architect of clothing: Corinne Grassini of Society for Rational Dress in L.A creates pieces to feel comfortable in

Corinne Grassini of Society for Rational Dress reworks California style with architectural inspirations and a rich sewing heritage.

image

It’s a rare rainy day in L.A and the Society for Rational Dress studio provides a welcome reprieve from the wind and rain outside. A visually interesting one too: an industrial space with concrete floors, the overcast light streaming through the wide, expansive windows dances around the showroom/lobby, creating a chiaroscuro effect amongst the clothes and the sparse burnished leather furnishings. The space is at once sturdy, strong and sheltering; yet open, light and comfortable.

These are themes that could also be used to describe Society for Rational Dress itself. Started in 2007 by Corinne Grassini, the label produces California luxury James Perse-style basics with an intellectual, architecturally-inspired twist. Sculptural, industrial details such as thick leather straps and weighty antique brass chains are worked in with viscose t-shirts, knit sweaters and silk dresses, offering the same plane of comfort as sweatpants - but with much more visual interest and style.

image


Like many of her SoCal cohorts, Grassini aims for stylish simplicity. Unlike many, however, she draws inspiration from both the ethos of architecture - “I always say that an architect builds a space to be comfortable in and feel comfortable in, and that’s kind of how I approach clothing too” - to the shapes and patterns found in the built landscape - her spring/summer 2012 collection took inspiration from the brickwork found in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House in L.A.

Despite this leaning towards architecture and an initial foray into humanities at the University of Washington, her current career is no surprise, least of all to her family. A tradition of sewing and craft comes through both sides and on the Society for Rational Dress website are photo-and-questionnaire profiles of women who inspire Grassini and her team; one features her grandmother, Marie Grassini.

“When [Marie] moved here with my grandpa from New York, my grandpa said, ‘You can’t bring everything, you can bring a quarter of it all, that’s all you can bring, we’re moving our entire lives across,’” recounts Grassini. “And so she hid everything, in like her shoes and in the couch and in the trunks and everywhere she could find to hide these notions and these fabrics and stuff and then they got here and she was like, ‘Surprise!’ She had her entire collection.” Returning to grad school to study pattern-making at the famed Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Marie was the first person Grassini turned to. “When I started design school, I went over to her place and sort of looked through all her fabrics and she gave me a bunch of buttons and you know, stuff that she had collected. So yeah, [sewing] definitely runs in the family. [Also] my mom’s a big sewer, an incredible quilter, and she knits.”

Knitwear is another specialty of sorts of Grassini’s; on display in the showroom are a selection of hand-woven pieces from Peru. “Each little bobble is made in Peru,” says Grassini, who was initially reluctant to expand manufacturing overseas but fell in love with what she saw as the country’s connection to its textile heritage. “[In Peru] you can see where the manufacturing economy was built. There’s people sitting on the side of the road making rugs and blankets and little dolls and stuff, and then you go to the factories and they’re using the same stitch techniques. There’s a connection to the history of knitwear there, which I really like. And you can see that in the pieces I think.”

image


Grassini’s appreciation of production comes from that pattern-making background, knowledge of which both hinders and helps the label, she says. “There’s certain times where it’s good for me to know patternmaking and then certain times where I wish I could just forget it because I’ll design something, I’ll draw something, and then I’ll think, there’s no way, like nobody’s going to be able to figure out how to make a pattern out of this. And I try to visualise the pattern, and if I can’t figure it out I just cross it out.

“Designers who don’t know the technical side, they can come up with the craziest stuff they can imagine which isn’t always the most cost-effective way to design or, but it’s a really fun way to design. So it works for me and against me; it’s a different thing every day.”

Not that her technical expertise seems to have hindered her creativity; she has collaborated with New York’s Museum of Art and Design twice, creating one-off pieces for their Paper Ball and Metal Ball galas. The David Letellier-inspired finial (re: architectural ornament) flower base she created for the latter has since been reimagined as a small vase currently available on her website, as part of a home furnishings line introduced in 2011. These limited edition pieces allow Grassini to focus in the design process, she says, and indeed the Serra chair’s sturdy base and suspended leather seat with antique brass metal details and a sculptural semi-circle cut out appears to epitomise the elegant sculptural aesthetic and industrial finishes of Grassini’s main collection.

Given how often she returns to architecture and interiors as inspiration and now as a designer, is there a chance that perhaps Grassini really did enter the wrong industry? She considers it carefully. She would have liked to be an architect, she says.

“[But when I consider] all the pre-planning that goes into architecture, and not being able to tear it down and put it back up…  I like the design process of clothing because we can tear it down and build it back up and create a sample.

“[So] I think that if I take that into consideration, the way that I design, I would have liked to be an architect,” she says, “…. if I had the patience for it.”

image

image

image

image

image

Related links

See inside fellow L.A designer Clare Vivier’s Silverlake studio

Shop local Californian design in L.A

Meet Garance Doré and learn how to live colourfully

Chanel at London Covent Garden

Chanel’s new pop-up beauty boutique at Covent Garden

Chanel's iconic double C’s mark a new attraction against the tourist-stained walls of Covent Garden Piazza,: the first Chanel beauty boutique in the UK, popping up to catch the throng of Olympic visitors to the city. 

The French luxury label’s interlocked graphemes - here in an unapologetically feminine cerise - take pride of place in the window like a siren’s call across the tourist-filled sea. Inside, the décor follows the house’s colours of black and white, the perfect backdrop for Chanel’s autumn beauty collection to be displayed alongside a dazzling rainbow of Chanel Le Vernis, which includes the highly sought-out blues from last year’s Les Jeans de Chanel collection, released at Fashion’s Night Out. Polite, sharp-suited staff are on hand to assist with the parting of money; not that there would any difficulty in doing so.

Chanel pop-up beauty boutique, Covent Garden Piazza, London, WC2E 8RF

image

image

image

image

image

image

Related links

Elle Fanning wears that little black jacket

The classic Chanel bag, Australian-style, to celebrate the Chanel boutique in Brisbane

Vanessa Paradis does luxe bohemian in Chanel

Capturing that joie de vivre: Garance Doré x Kate Spade New York

Garance Doré loves sport, and since she’s only arrived in London a day ago, it’s definitely not because of the city’s Olympics fever. “I’m very sporty,” she says in her charming French accent. “I love sports and I like snowboarding and like mountain biking and like hiking and all this kind of stuff. Maybe that’s not something you would expect from somebody in fashion…”

It’s not, but it’s precisely this sort of unpretentious, un-fashion-y behaviour that has the ragtrade industry falling in love with her, and that Kate Spade New York have tapped into. For their autumn/winter 2012 collection, the US label’s girly-polished dresses, skirts and patent-leather beauty cases have been tagged with the fashion illustrator, photographer and blogger extraordinaire’s vivacious drawings, handwriting and of course, her impish sense of humour. After all, meeting Doré is like running into your best friend from when you were 12 who has turned out to be impeccably stylish and successful, but, thank goodness, still has that same sense of mischief, making for a potently wicked good time. Case in point: she whips out her iPhone to show her favourite piece in the collection, a case covered by her own tongue-in-cheek illustration of a chintzy cocktail party. Mostly, this is her favourite because she really, really loves her iPhone. “Once you have one, you can’t go back, it’s so addictive, like a toy!” she says, suddenly noticing my woefully scratched Blackberry-wannabe Nokia. “What is that?” I don’t know, I say woefully and we both laugh.  

Indeed, nothing could sum up Doré more appropriately than the collection’s sartorially oxymoronic ‘slouchy-chic’ sweater featuring the words ‘joie de vivre’ scrawled in her elegant lettering. Her love of fashion is enthusiastically infectious - “[Fashion is] part of the things that make life more… fun, more light, more easy; it’s one of the pleasures that we have in the morning, like food,” - and despite being inspired by the graphic grandeur of the Cour d’Honneur at Paris’ Palais Royal for the collection, she turns the notion of the haughty parisienne completely on its heels with her endearingly unpolished manner.

Indeed, unlike some of her countrymen, she openly professes a love for those on this side of the channel - “People have a really great sense of humour [in London], and they are not too serious about too themselves, which I really really love.” She would like to stay longer, but must head back to New York - she has work to do, she says. Does the unofficially crowned Miss Globetrotter have any travel tips or better yet, any travel rituals she would like to share then? “I, um, what do I do?” She pauses to think. “I buy a ton of magazines. Uh…any magazine! There’s a moment when I will buy any magazine, even the one that you don’t wanna show in your apartment, because I’m a magazine freak.

“The gossip ones, Oprah magazine, all the stuff! Like everything. So I’m very happy you know…” she says, then with that oh-so-charmingly guileless laugh adds, “and then I leave it all on the plane.”

Kate Spade New York stores are located at Covent Garden, 104 Langley Court, London WC2 and Sloane Square, 2 Symons Street, London SW3 2TJ; www.katespade.com

p.s. When asked if she had one last thing to add, she wanted to say, “Scott, I miss you!” Sweet, no? 

Related links

See Garance Doré in the front row at Milan Fashion Week (on vogue.com.au)

Live colourfully indeed, with this paint-splattered umbrella

Garance Doré does a make-up tute and meets Emmanuelle Alt

Melissa ‘MJ’ Johannsen

A chance shopping trip to South Australia was to model Melissa ‘MJ’ Johannsen what a spider bite was to Peter Parker, or an all-too-juicy apple was to Snow White; unlike them however, her fate has taken her all over the (fashion) world.

image

Originally hailing from Alice Springs - best known for its whoop-whoop location in the heart of Australia’s very vast, very arid desert - this fresh-faced teenager with ethereal looks was discovered in 2010 while on a shopping trip to the closest capital city Adelaide. Within months she was flying to Australian Fashion Week to walk for Aussie fashion stalwarts Camilla and Marc and Yeojin Bae; not long after, she was flying to New York Fashion Week, where she was picked by Kate and Laura Mulleavy to walk for Rodarte's spring/summer 2011 show.

It was the start of a beautiful relationship; Johannsen has walked in NYFW for the past three seasons, each time appearing for Rodarte amongst other brands. The feeling is mutual - she names Rodarte is the highlight of her show schedule, and cannot be quick enough to praise their collections. “Each one of their pieces is just a work of art, so much work goes into it and there’s so much detail. I’m definitely a huge fan of their stuff, I would like, take their whole collection home and steal it if I could,” she laughs.

Not that she needs to - despite growing up in a town where “surf shops were the height of fashion”, her sartorial sense has quickly developed to the point where she is a regular subject of street style blogger Candice Lake. She describes her style as “grungy rock-chick”, with a closet full of Rag & Bone, Band of Outsiders and Mulberry. “I really love fashion now,” she says. “I’ve learnt so quickly about all the high fashion brands, and I’ve got my favourites and all the different things that I like and I’m enjoying putting little outfits together with all my clothes and stuff, so yeah.”

Indeed, the self-proclaimed “outback kid” is looking forward to being in the shows again as fashion season starts in less than a month. “I love fashion season. I love the hype of it all and it’s such a huge rush and the adrenalin of running to shows and castings and all that. 

“Some of the girls don’t really enjoy it because it’s so busy and you don’t have the time to stop and rest, but I think that’s the whole excitement of it.”

image

MJ in the Flinders Ranges / Adelaide Now

the perfect white t-shirt: contradictions in comfort

The perfect t-shirt should be like wearing your favourite blanket: soft, comfortable and completely enveloping yet revealing at the same time. Those who have such a t-shirt will know what I mean. Thank you Cos.

Related links

White suede shoes by Feit


Nick Wakeman of Studio Nicholson

Nick Wakeman, of British label Studio Nicholson, gives menswear classics a sense of femininity and Italian quirk in her London studio.

Nick Wakeman has a soft spot for Italy. Not only does she makes several trips there a year, she cannot give enough praise to their fabric industry, and reveals she has a thing for Italian males - or their style, at least.

“[Italian men] are just so incredibly, impeccably well dressed,” she says. “I think the young guys are are a little flashy, but then you can go up to guys who are like 60 and 70 in the street, and [they have this sense of] sprezzatura, which means kind of like, quirkiness in how they put an outfit together. It’s like, okay I’ve got a shirt on, but I’ll roll one sleeve up and I’ll keep the other one down. Or… I won’t wear a shirt under my jacket, I’ll just wear a little scarf.

“It’s a quirk, do you know what I mean, and I think that’s really interesting.”

Indeed, she holds Italian male fashion in such high regard she considers it the main inspiration for her label Studio Nicholson, itself based on the British menswear canon (Oxford button downs, relaxed chinos, etc…) but ultimately infused with this sense of sprezzatura.

This ability to imbue clothes with personality is part of what the Nottingham-born, now London-based designer does. Her first label before Studio Nicholson, Birdy, was a streetwear label targeted towards a younger audience (Wakeman started the label in her mid-twenties), full of prints and vibrancy, and finished with a “f*ck off attitude, do you know what I mean?” she says. She says sorry straight away, almost sheepishly, but the apology is almost unnecessary; the cussing hardly registers, tempered as it is by her very proper British accent.

Much like Wakeman herself, Studio Nicholson melds strength, feistiness, class and gentle femininity all into one. Add to this Wakeman’s passion for textiles - she studied it at the Chelsea College of Art and is a self-confessed aficionado; “my biggest love in the world is fabric. It’s what gets me really excited,” she says - and the results are deft explorations of form, line and silhouette through cloth, even as she seeks to re-work those chinos she spent years creating as a former Marks & Spencer menswear designer (she never said she admired the Italians for their relaxed lifestyle). Her latest fixation is viscose, with the material’s soft fluidity providing a counterbalance to her pieces’ masculinity.  

“My core design values are that I take a masculine silhouette, a masculine classic piece like the Oxford button down or whatever, and I feminise it by adding, how to describe it… adding a kind of fluidity and softness. [So] when I choose fabrics, they’ve got to be incredibly feminine, because my styling is quite masculine,” she says.

The masculinity is simply an extension of her own personal style; she has, she confesses,“always worn men’s shirts, and tailored men’s jackets to fit”. Studio Nicholson, it seems, was the excuse to create the pieces she always wanted to wear. But what was it about the masculine that attracted her in the first place?

“The classic styling of menswear, I think that is really attractive to me… but I think more so, it’s the identity of the masculine silhouette,” she says. “It’s just a bit more laid back, and it’s got a nonchalant attitude to it.

“I just also find [menswear] a much more no-nonsense approach to getting dressed. I mean, it’s about classic, simple styling, you know, you can almost do it in the dark.”

This I miss

Blanket from Michoacán, sandals from Country Road, beach in Bronte / me

A cave in Bermondsey

image

Chocolates, flowers and wine: a trifecta of the finer things in life. Cave, a small but impeccably edited store in Bermondsey, London, takes them to the next level with a focus on the artisanal and unique. Jennifer, shop girl and the creative force behind Cave’s luscious, whimsical floral arrangements, speaks about the store:

"It’s really quite simple. [The store started when co-owner] Steve, an actor for many years, got hugely into wine - he actually did the wine course at the School of Wine & Spirits - and also worked with flowers for many, many years as a gardener and then chocolate… well it’s all really amazing chocolate that’s all just selected and very edited. It’s all very small scale production from small scale companies.

"One of the other business partners, Mark, is a designer and very big in sort of the fashion and style worlds so a lot of these different products, like the chocolates and bits and bobs, he just knows all about them. That’s where you get passion from. They were just things that we all just loved. I mean we love flowers, we just love eating chocolate, and we love drinking wine. It’s great. It’s a really nice business and it’s nice being surrounded by lovely things all the time.

I don’t really like to play favourites, I like them all. The candles are beautiful, there are some really interesting scents like Smoke on the Water. It’s like they really capture the atmosphere, so Smoke on the Water smells like a barbecue… on a beach… in a flower meadow.

"[As for wine], poh, where to start? I guess for summer, this, this is amazing. It’s a rosé secco and it is like a glass of summer. Really tart strawberries, lovely minimal finish, really gentle bottle.

"For us wine is not region-specific, it’s about taste and knowing and testing. Stephen’s taken everything and chosen everything… and I slowly make my way through it all.

"It’s all about really small scale production, and stories. The majority of it is organic or biodynamic - hand-picked grapes in a really old school way. I know it’s become overtly on trend at the moment, but it’s really about going back to actually the original methods of making things. Actually, a lot of the wines that we have are from such small scale productions that they can’t afford to be certified organic. It costs a lot of money just to say ‘I’m organic’ but that’s just how they’ve been making wines for hundreds of years. They’ve always been organic, they’ve never not been organic. And we know that because we work closely with them, we know they don’t use pesticides.

"And we just like the natural wines, they’re just more interesting. I mean, massive scale wines aren’t really nice. It’s fine, it’s not really bad, but this is just really interesting stuff.

"[My favourite aspect of the store is that] it’s all really seasonal, which is nice. Like the wines change with the seasons, the flowers obviously change with the seasons, so do the cards and the chocolate. It’s just nice that everything’s always moving and changing.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Jasmin Shokrian

Nominated by a panel in 2005 that included Tim Blanks and Alexander McQueen as one of the ‘most talented fashion and accessory designers to emerge recently onto the global stage’, Jasmin Shokrian is, unsurprisingly, busy. 

The  ’fashion innovator’ and designer has granted me a scant half hour in her studio - and even then I am grateful she has managed to fit me in to her busy schedule. She gives me a brusque, no-nonsense description of what’s on her mind in regards to both her eponymous main line and her ready-to-wear line, Draft No. 17, until I, in a fit of Frontline-worthy journalistic incompetence, forget that my recorder hasn’t been on and ask her to repeat a few sentences. Graciously trying to remember what she said the first time, her mind is occupied and she loses some vivacity, but fair enough - this is a woman whose intellectual manner is too expressive to be repeated like a machine.

A machine certainly couldn’t design like Shokrian, who expertly creates pared-back minimalist garments that then allow her more sculptural talents to shine through in the details. This deftness with design comes from her schooling in fine arts, a background which also means she considers garments in situ, as pieces of clothing that inhabit specific spaces. “I get very interested in positive and negative space,” says Shokrian. “One thing I really like the idea of… [is] a person within an image: the shape of the clothing within a photograph or within a space. I [imagine] this idea of how that shape would look - and then I aspire to achieve that.”

There’s no doubt that the highly analytical, intellectual and creative Shokrian would have succeeded had she chosen to focus on any of the other creative pursuits that, throughout the years, had their doors open to her, namely film or sculpture. She focused on fashion, though, because “I think I was always searching for a media that would encapsulate everything…. Fashion as a media is pretty interesting because you’re dealing with movement, you’re dealing with narrative, you’re dealing with composition and you’re dealing with sculpting of the form. It’s all encompassing.”

However, this doesn’t mean she’s forgotten her roots: she often presents her ideas through film, and her latest film, a moving, contemporary short focusing on Draft No. 17 was included in Style.com’s Video Fashion Week. I ask her what she thinks of Video Fashion Week. “It [makes] lots of sense,” she says. “I mean I’m always thinking about things in a different way… And actually for me, when I started Draft, [video] is how I wanted to show it.

"I mean this," she gestures towards the collection, hung on the rack and organized in an orderly, precise manner, "could definitely be shown on the runway, but it needs to be seen in motion. And maybe it will be, but [at the moment] I’m just really excited about showing the collection in a different way than I thought."

Clare Vivier is trés chic in L.A.

Local California design at Bentley & Vivier

See Jasmin Shokrian’s video on Style.com

Lover release a capsule collection called White Magick

Lover's aesthetic has long been tied in with lace, so it comes as no surprise that designers Nic Briand and Susien Chong have released White Magick, a capsule collection based on what has become their signature fabric. 

Exploring some of lace’s underappreciated qualities - “it can be evil and naughty and kinda cheeky and be really virginal and really pure,” said Chong of the duo’s fascination with lace - the delicate collection was launched on Tuesday night with a casual, low-key party at the label’s Strand Arcade store, the pieces hung bewitchingly on display, almost daring us not to fall under their spell. I caught up with Susien Chong to find out more: 

"So pretty much these are pieces from our archives and they’ve basically either been refitted or just revamped in some way to bring them into a modern context and also basically be put together as a capsule for White Magick.

"We lengthened some things and we brought up to date some of the fits. Because they’re from the archives  too, a lot of the pieces are from our earlier collections, where we hadn’t quite refined our fit, so we kind of basically buffed and polished some of our older styles up.

"It was great fun [going through the archives]! I mean there’s actually a lot we’ve done over the last ten years and twenty seasons now that we could keep drawing from but we kept to the looks that we felt were the most influential of their time, and also that we keep getting consistent requests from customers about.

"We don’t usually go through the archives. Sometimes we’ll remember stuff that was really good and that we think we should do again or that maybe, you know, like the first time round they didn’t get enough airplay and we feel that there’s real value in them, so occasionally we’ll be like, ‘Oh, remember this style?’. But we never actually consciously go through things and go ‘Oh we should do that again’. And I think this is what White Magick is about, consciously going through and finding styles we thought were really fun and adding more life into them.

"I think we’re really proud of these pieces and that’s why we selected them. There are some pieces we decided to leave in the archives…but I think [with the pieces in the White Magick collection], we’re really proud of them and we feel like they all have the essence and spirit of Lover in them and for that reason, that’s why they’ve been selected for White Magick."

image

View the White Magick collection by Lover on their website

Zimmermann: another Aussie label known for lace

Australian fashion love at MBFWA

Interview: Clare Vivier is trés chic in L.A.

In the raggedly bohemian, character-filled suburb of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena stands out for the modern, light-filled studio standing on it. Inside, designer Clare Vivier is discussing plans to introduce travel luggage to her eponymous leather goods line. 

“It can be done,” says the soft-spoken Vivier with conviction, empathetic emphasis on the can. “You can make a really pretty weekender/overnighter on wheels.”

It’s the tone of someone utterly confident in reaching their goal - all that’s left are the practicalities. But Vivier is not being cocky - her unpretentious, down-to-earth nature is the antithesis of this. Rather, her steely self-assuredness comes from experience: after all, her now cult-status luxury leather goods label was only born when the former French television journalist figured out how to turn her vision of a line of simple, practical and yet stylish laptop bags into reality.
 

It’s a reality that has since blossomed: the team have since moved studios and the same location will turn into a store filled with Vivier’s made-in-L.A. buttery leather goods, each characterised by their bright colour accents and simple, chic silhouettes. She’s also planning to expand into men’s accessories soon, while adding new twists to old favourite - the best-selling Tropezienne tote in cherry pink, for example. Quelle élégance, non?

And the travel goods? They’re not reality yet, and with the number of projects in line for the company, it might be a while until they are. But will they be reality? Given Vivier’s track record, it would be almost foolish not to think so.

What do you like about L.A.?
I love the weather and I love that there’s a big creative community around, people doing creative things and anything is possible is here. Like any ideas that you have, you can make them happen here, I don’t know why.

So have there been any ideas you’ve made happen? Obviously this…
Well yeah.

How did it start?  
It started when I was making my own bags and then I looked around for factories - and that’s another thing about Los Angeles, there’s a lot of production here. I didn’t know anyone in the business so I just had to ask around.

So I found production and then I started to design and thinking I could design anything I wanted now that other people were sewing my bags. But then I discovered production in the US, it’s very expensive. So you have to work within the confines of that price structure. Like, you’re not going to… I realized that my first bag I made was very complicated and it turned out to be a very expensive bag and then I didn’t have a name yet so I couldn’t really justify charging a lot. Stores weren’t interested in a bag line that was unknown and charging 600 dollars for a bag and competing with the big brands.

What was the first bag like?
It was a work bag. It was a laptop bag but it just had canvas and leather and a lot of pockets and piping and structure to it. It was complicated to make.

Okay. But do you think it’s worked in your favour? Because part of what’s appealing about your line is that it is simple.
Yeah, it definitely has worked in my favour. I had to just make it work. I remember one day I had some leather, the Trop leather, and I thought, I want to do something with this leather, how can I make it work?

So I put it on the ground to see the way it formed and I folded it into a bag and I thought, I could do something really simple. And I made these leather strips, and even mocked up a handle and just stared at it for a while and then I placed some hardware, like where the hardware was going to be, and just stared at it, seeing if I could get a visual of what it was going to look like and I thought, that’s good.

What piece would you say represents you the most?
Oh gosh, I don’t even know. I would say the Trop but I don’t even carry the Trop much anymore.

…I can’t really name one. There’s the canvas tote I’ve been carrying lately… I think they all do in a way because they’re all simple and classic and what I like to think of as very chic.

Are there are any designers that you like, like your favourite labels or artists?
Hmmm. A lot of the Frenchies, Isabel Marant and, um, Céline I like. A.P.C. I love; I don’t wear many of their clothes but I love the aesthetic.

I love A.P.C. They don’t quite do sizes that fit me though…
No. I mean you’re quite small… And I like Steven Alan.

I know you did a collaboration with them, what’s been your favourite collaboration?
Hmm. Probably with Steven Alan, it was the easiest.

And right now we’re doing a collection with Wren, with Melissa Coker and her line, that’s always very easy and fun to do. 

Are you excited about where the store is going? When you first started, did you ever think it would be like this?
No. I hope it would. We wanted it to be. And I want it to keep growing, I don’t take anything for granted, I take it day by day because I know the fashion business is so fickle and you just have to keep going and keep making yourself relevant and keep making designs that people want to carry and keep it interesting… it’s a lot of work.

But you love it?
Yeah.

Silver Lake swagger

Interview: Melissa Coker of Wren talks colour and Minnetonka memories

Shop L.A.: local Californian design at Vivier & Bentley

Kate Moss X Harper’s Bazaar

/ Terry Richardson X Harper’s Bazaar via Fashionista

Interview: Melissa Coker of Wren talks colour and Minnetonka memories

I was lucky enough to be invited to check out the Wren studio when I was in L.A.; situated in a nondescript neighbourhood, its factory-like exterior showed nothing of the riot of colour and brightness that was inside. Unfortunately the woman behind the brand, Melissa Coker, was in New York while I visited (doing bigger and better things - video to come in another post, love it!) but I still managed to ask her a couple of things about those awesome Minnetonkas I spotted in her studio:

Minnetonkas! Can you tell me what your inspiration was for the Minnetonka collection?
I grew up Lake Forest, Illinois, where we spent summers in Wisconsin. The highlight of each trip was a brand new pair of Minnetonka Moccasins.  These prized shoes would be worn into the ground year in and year out, gleefully replaced at the start of the next summer.

How did the collaboration came about?
As I began working on the fall 2012 line, still in my Minnetonkas after all these years, I started thinking what a perfect pairing this could be and what a great fit it would be, not only for Wren, but also for myself.  That sense of history and authenticity would make for a great collaboration.

The Minnetonkas are indeed very cool. Your line is known for colourful prints (which came up beautifully in the photos!). What attracts you about print, and colour?
The whole line usually is born from a favorite print or two.  It’s my key for the design process.  I know I’ve found something special when I see a print that gives me a giddy & excited feeling.  

Have you ever had an all-time favorite print and why?
My favorite print was a floral that looked like it had been hand painted & had a very brushstroke-y look.  It also has a vintage feel which I love.