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Los Angeles Is (Finally) the Fifth Fashion Capital

As a steady stream of big-name designers lay down roots in the city, LA feels increasingly essential to the global fashion business
  • Lauren Sherman

LOS ANGELES, United States — A few weeks ago, Tom Ford ran a classified advertisement in the Los Angeles Times seeking a "senior research designer." The key elements of the job description? Develop and maintain the fashion library. Coordinate designer concepts. Analyse market trends.

Who knows whether or not prospects read the fine print. (Yes, it ran in print.) But while Ford may have chosen an old fashioned — if entirely charming — recruitment method to get the word out, there's nothing retro about the operation he set up in Los Angeles in early 2017. While his men's design studio remains in London, where he lived full-time for many years, his women's design team is now based in LA, offering an opportunity for eager would-be transplants to head West— and talented locals to remain.

Tom Ford is certainly not the only brand making it easier for fashion to thrive in Los Angeles, which continues to attract a steady stream of creative-class transplants from New York, according to the US Census Bureau. Long-time LA resident Hedi Slimane is making noise once again as he prepares to relaunch LVMH-owned brand Céline, where he was appointed creative director earlier this year.

Since Slimane's arrival a decade ago, many other notable designers have joined the movement. Shoe designer Tamara Mellon is now based in Los Angeles; jewellery designer Eddie Borgo recently moved there. Nicholas Kirkwood is spending more time in the city. And, according to sources, Richemont is scouting office spaces in the city for Chloé designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi — who is said to be spending more time on the West Coast. The company declined to comment.


Along with the notable swell of settlers, designers continue to choose Los Angeles as a place to show collections, if with less regularity than they do in the traditional fashion capitals of New York, London, Milan and Paris. But for many, LA is no longer an exotic destination, but a bona fide stop on the fashion circuit.

Less than two weeks ago, LA-based Jeremy Scott erected a circus tent to exhibit his Resort 2019 collection. Just a few days earlier, New York-based Rachel Comey — an independent designer with a limited marketing budget — chose to use her dollars to stage a runway show in the Art Deco building that used to house the upscale department store Bullocks. Comey has showed in Los Angeles once before — where she has a store on Melrose Place — forgoing New York Fashion Week on those occasions.

“I had a really great time with our casting out there,” Comey said. “The way that they wear clothes and wear fashion is just different... there may be one version of LA style on my Instagram, but there are so many different types of people. It makes me excited to think about.”

Comey also has a production office there, mostly dealing with denim. While manufacturing ready-to-wear at scale remains a challenge, it does feel that LA has once-and-for-all cemented its place as the world’s fifth fashion capital, providing a fertile ecosystem for those who would like to call the city home.

The influx of luxury labels doing work in LA is only in addition to the strong independent businesses established here, including leather goods label Clare V., jewellery designers Irene Neuwirth, Sophie Buhai and Leigh Miller and fast-growing apparel brand Co, many of whom are driving aesthetic trends far beyond the city's limits.

Designer Jesse Kamm's perfectly tailored sailor pants were the original inspiration for the dozens upon dozens of high-waisted, wide legged cropped trousers that currently overwhelm the shop floor. And there's Yael Aflalo's Reformation, the brand that launched a thousand thigh-skimming floral dresses. There are new-and-promising upstarts, too, like Entireworld, from Band of Outsiders' founder Scott Sternberg.

"It's not just luxury brands — there's a creative class of cool kids doing things differently — and thriving," says LA-based fashion consultant Katherine Ross, who often advises and mentors young designers in the city. "People just like it here."

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