C California Style

Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney at the designer’s Autumn 2016 presentation at L.A.’s Amoeba Music in January.
Rodarte.
Gucci.
Designer Hedi Slimane of Saint Laurent moved his Fall 2016 menswear show (which included “part one” of the women’s collection) from Paris to the Hollywood Palladium on February 10.
Designer Tom Ford hosted his Fall 2015 show at L.A.’s Milk Studios instead of his usual London on Oscar weekend in February 2015.
Greg Lauren.
Louis Vuitton presented its Cruise 2016 collection in Palm Springs at the Bob and Dolores Hope estate in May 2015.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour and the entire Beckham clan sat front row at BURBERRY’s Fall 2015 show at the Griffith Observatory in L.A. last April.

Westward Leaning

by C California Style

New York, Paris…Los Angeles? As the fashion world looks to the West Coast for its next style cue, Booth Moore confirms L.A.’s status as the capital of cool.

Don’t you wish the fashion gods would just go ahead and move all the runway shows to Los Angeles already? The way designers all over the world are fawning over and riffing on California, they really might as well.

Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane is so besotted with SoCal’s youthful music and art subcultures, he planned his Fall 2016 menswear show at the Hollywood Palladium in February. And in January, Stella McCartney brought her women’s Autumn 2016 collection to Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard, showing her ’70s-​inspired clothes among the bins of CDs and vinyl, and hosting performances by Beach Boy Brian Wilson, as well as Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson, among others. “L.A. is on fire creatively,” McCart-ney said at the event. And both happenings follow on the fashionable heels of last year’s Bur-berry show at L.A.’s Griffith Observatory, Tom Ford at L.A.’s Milk Studios and Louis Vuitton in Palm Springs.

California has had its sartorial moments in the past,  mostly in the surf, skate and sunshine gaze (remember the Chanel surfboard?). And yet it’s never been considered a style capital, until now.

So why is fashion’s new muse California? There’s a sense of optimism here that anything can happen. L.A.’s relatively affordable rents and never-​ending opportunity for geographic expansion have led to flourishing creative enterprise, trendy new restaurants and stores, and vibrant art and music worlds. And Silicon Valley is the center of the tech universe, and the birthplace of such forward-thinking, clean-​energy concepts as Tesla Motors.

Yet as James Carville might say, when it comes to California and fashion, it’s the celebrities, stupid. They haven’t just hijacked the runway; they’ve hijacked the whole industry. Not only was Derek Zoolander on the Valentino catwalk, he was on the cover of Vogue. Kanye West got more attention releasing his new album and Yeezy 3 collection simultaneously at Madison Square Garden during New York Fashion Week—and selling tickets to the public—than all the haute couture shows combined. Calvin Klein caused a #MyCalvins frenzy by putting Justin Bieber in a pair of skivvies—and nothing else.

No wonder the balance of power has shifted from east to west, where so many of these synergies are hatched in the offices of Creative Artists Agency and WME. We’ve gone way beyond red-carpet dressing; now, fashion is entertainment.

Technology has played a part in this, too. Thanks to the Internet and social media, runway shows are not just for insiders anymore; they’re for anyone who wants to tune into a livestream or social media platform (or buy a ticket to see West). To compete with the celebrity onslaught, designers have had to start thinking more like entertainers, upping the showmanship on and off the runway to create vivid, shareable images—which brings us to the spring runways.

Marc Jacobs’ “One Night Only!” held at the landmark Ziegfeld Theatre in New York was a fashion-show tribute to Americana, with an all-star cast including models Beth Ditto, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner and celebrity guests Debbie Harry and Bette Midler. The collection was chock-full of sparkly bandleader uniforms, star-​spangled American flag jackets, sweater vests knit with popcorn and movie-​camera motifs, and a showstopping gown in a photo print based on Janet Leigh’s Psycho scream (that would be killer to wear to a movie premiere).

Fashion met theater in a more subtle way on Lanvin’s runway, where Alber Elbaz’s collection unfolded in acts, with beautifully tailored black-and-white separates punctuated by dramatic flounces or bows, yielding to fireworks of sequins on cocktail looks, and Pop Art dresses emblazoned with his colorful sketches of shoes and perfume bottles. It was the perfect finale to Elbaz’s tenure at Lanvin, as if by design. But don’t cry for him; since he announced his departure, he’s found new popularity on Instagram.

Drama wasn’t only confined to the runways; it’s in the clothes, too, which seem to celebrate the performance of getting dressed. It’s almost as if designers decided, now that social media is making us all selfie stars in our own lives, we need costumes!

Alessandro Michele has certainly flipped the script at Gucci with his Technicolor parade of lust-worthy Lurex knits, ribbon-​tied floral dresses and a
serpent-​and-rose-​embroidered white pant-suit that bears a passing resemblance to the work of North Hollywood’s legendary rodeo tailor Nudie Cohn, the man who got cowboys to wear rhinestones.

Like Slimane at Saint Laurent, Michele eschews overarching runway trends that change every six months in favor of exuberant individual pieces. “He’s a costume designer who creates fashion,” costume designer and stylist Arianne Phillips told me earlier this year, reflecting on Michele’s layered sensibility and his custom wardrobe for Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” tour. It’s true, Gucci may be the brand, but Michele’s quirky clothes encourage you to be your own brand—and share it across all platforms.

Then there’s L.A.’s own Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, whose collaged lace, fringe and embroidery dresses, shimmery pajama-style pants and shaggy peplum jackets, and Deco platform shoes are the stuff of stardust dreams, and one of their best collections yet. Not content to limit their cinematic vision to the runway, they’ve gone off and become filmmakers, following in Tom Ford’s footsteps: Their directorial debut, Woodshock, will premiere later this year.

But if living in California, rather than gazing at it from the outside, has taught us anything, it’s that putting on the glitz is nice, but going casual is nicer. And so goes the rest of the world.

After all, this is the leisure land that birthed Juicy Couture tracksuits and Mark Zuckerberg hoodies, both precursors to fashion’s current obsessions with designer sneakers, comfy athleisure and streetwear. California’s casual cool is the reason we have spring’s fabulous Chloé rainbow-striped track pants and Coachella-​ready denim peasant dresses, Libertine’s painted caftans, The Elder Statesman’s tie-dyed cashmere sweatshirts, and Monique Lhuillier’s jewel-​toned evening tunic over pants look, an update on 1960s hostess pajamas.

Even when we’re heading to the gym, dashing out to get a cold-pressed juice, or hosting at home, there could be a camera somewhere, whether paparazzi or a friend’s iPhone. So it pays to look good, always.

Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli has been inspired by our laid-back luxe since he founded his company in 1978, and has made fans of Jessica Alba, Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Garner and other famous L.A. ladies who look to him for elevated off-duty attire. “Elegant and sporty” is how he describes his spring collection of striped ball skirts, tennis sweaters, crisp white culottes and supple silk tanks, which would be at home at a Malibu backyard party.

As much as California can be showy, it’s also a beacon for relaxed, refined femininity—less diva, more down-to-earth. Note Chanel’s tweed jacket layered over gossamer dress and pants (where else could you wear that but here?), Balenciaga’s louche lingerie top over wide-legged trousers, Greg Lauren’s slouchy tuxedo with extra-​long shirt and tailcoat, and Juan Carlos Obando’s sport-meets-evening-wear separates.

“There’s a strong fingerprint of lifestyle here, and it’s because we are psychologically tied to the environment,” says Obando. “It defines us.”

“There’s a strong fingerprint of lifestyle here, and it’s because we are psychologically tied to the environment,” says Obando. “It defines us.” 

Because nature is so intrinsic even to urban life in California, there’s a thread of eco-consciousness here, too, thanks to labels such as L.A. men’s brand Outerknown, founded by champion surfer Kelly Slater and backed by luxury conglomerate Kering, which sells coastal casual wear made from organic cotton, hemp, wool and a recycled nylon called Econyl made from recovered fishing nets.

“My house has always been about embracing sustainability, looking forward, and being aware of our impact on the planet,” says McCartney. “That’s always been very at home in L.A.”

The sentiment has echoed all the way up to the haute couture, as evidenced by Chanel’s recent show featuring a turf runway destined for the compost heap, clothes with 3-D printed frills, wood-chip beads and recycled-paper embellishments.

Buzzed-about husband-and-wife designers Kristopher Brock and Laura Vassar moved from New York to L.A. last year, so they could be immersed in the indoor-outdoor lifestyle that inspires their label, Brock Collection. For spring, it was the contrast of the Gustavian-style interiors of Vassar’s mother’s coastal home in Newport Beach, and the sandy surf below. The result? Clothes in luxe fabrics and simple shapes (brocade sundresses, cotton skirts with delicately embroidered hems, and floor-grazing shirtdresses in pale cotton voiles, for example) designed to go to the beach or a dinner party. “It’s about not taking yourself too seriously,” Vassar says.

But the biggest reason for our new fashionable state may be because here, unconventionality is the norm.

Designer Rosetta Getty certainly appreciates that. Inspiration for her spring collection struck at the Getty Center, where she stumbled on a show about the avant-garde dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and writer Yvonne Rainer, a San Francisco native who embodies California’s freethinking ethos. Rainer first gained prominence in the 1960s, interestingly enough, for avoiding showmanship in her work. She said “no” to formality and theatricality in dance in favor of gestures that were more casual and cool, including wails, grunts and squeaks.

It was that impulse that led Getty to design fluid trumpet skirts, rib tees with cutout shoulders, off-shoulder blouses and crepe gowns that go wherever you want to. “Modern dance had a lot of structure actually, and boundaries,” she says. “But the postmodern dance movement…there were no rules or structure; it was just about moving however you felt like moving, a real freedom without any hang-ups at all.”

Sounds like California in a nutshell.

–Booth Moore.