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by erin magner | February 25, 2013 | Style & Beauty
TALE OF TWO CITIES - CERRE
LA’s Parisian power couple, Clayton and Flavie Webster of Cerre, are bringing French flair to the Pacific Coast.
To the untrained eye, the style sensibilities of Paris and LA are as different as croissants and carnitas. But Cerre designers Clayton and Flavie Webster prove that mixing the two aesthetics results in a certain je ne sais quoi. After meeting on a train while working as models in Paris, the now-married couple moved to LA in 2003 because, as Clayton, a 37-year-old California native, puts it: “LA is like the Wild West. You can experiment in a way that would be hard to do in Paris, where you have all of the institutions looking over your shoulder.”
Cerre started out as a small line of leather accessories, but has recently grown into a full womenswear collection. In a nod to the Websters’ affinity for the way Parisian couture houses operate, each piece is constructed in Cerre’s year-old Melrose Avenue store, from tieneck silk blouses and draped jersey knits to the architectural felted wool coats being prepped for fall. And in true LA style, that store is often populated by stylists and costume designers (the Websters just finished making 150 pieces for a “huge movie”), but celebs like Emma Stone, Robin Wright, and Dakota Fanning have been spotted shopping there too.
What’s more, the line’s duality doesn’t stop with the nationalities of its designers. Says Flavie, 34: “The collection isn’t fully masculine or feminine… you can see both Clayton and me every time.” Clearly their approach has paid off: They took the line to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York for the first time this year, and are currently looking to open boutiques in New York, Paris, and Asia. “Over the past eight months, we’ve gone from being an atelier to being a brand,” says Clayton. “It took us a long time, but we built it all with our own hands.” Cerre, 8920 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 310-385-9051
MATERIAL GUY - The Elder Statesman
The Elder Statesman’s Greg Chait receives a benediction from the NY fashion brass for his sumptuous, artisanal luxury.
Last fall Greg Chait walked into the 2012 CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund Awards gala—an emerging fashion designer’s equivalent of the Oscars—feeling totally Zen. Never mind that he was nail-bitingly nominated for the top prize alongside nine of the country’s most talked-about brands; as the founder of the under-the-radar cashmere line The Elder Statesman puts it, “I wasn’t all that nervous because I didn’t think I was going to win.” So imagine his surprise when his name was called as the winner of the $300,000 jackpot—proof that the fashion establishment believes in his idea of quiet, classic, craft-driven luxury.
Since then, The Elder Statesman has gone from being an insider secret to a headline-grabbing force. It’s been a big change for Chait, 34. Not one for self-promotion, he has always preferred to let people find and judge his work for themselves, whether they are discovering one of his hand-knit beanies or cardigans at Maxfield or working with him to commission bespoke throws for a private screening room. “The name ‘Elder Statesman’ means someone who has earned a high rank in society by merit,” says Chait, who worked in the music industry before creating his first cashmere blanket in 2007. “My business is all about materials research and development; it’s the idea of putting something out there [simply because] it’s good.”
Going forward, the Malibu-based Chait plans to stay true to the understated nature of his brand, sticking with a small number of stores—“There’s a finite amount that can handle a $6,000 blanket,” he laughs—and following his pre-Fashion Fund plan of slow and steady growth (albeit now with the help of Fashion Fund business mentors Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark of LA-based lifestyle brand Chrome Hearts). “The Elder Statesman was on a really good path before the award,” he says. “It’s really been more of a point of pride for my staff and the people who have supported me from the beginning. It’s given us all an even greater sense of optimism.” The Elder Statesman designs are available at Maxfield, 8825 Melrose Ave., LA, 310-274-8800
ECLECTI-CITY - Vena Cava
Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai of Vena Cava are back in town to pay homage to native LA style with their spirited indie collection.
Vena Cava may have launched in Brooklyn, technically, but the brand’s roots are firmly planted in Los Angeles—at the now-shuttered Hollywood secondhand store The Studio Wardrobe Department, to be exact. It was there that cofounders (and SoCal natives) Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai, both 31, first bonded over their obsession with vintage shopping after having been introduced by a mutual friend before their first semester at NYC’s Parsons The New School for Design. “We were both pretty shy and awkward at the time, but when we found out we had the same favorite thrift store, it solidified our friendship,” says Mayock.
Fast-forward more than 10 years, and Vena Cava—loved by red-carpet regulars like Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams—has finally returned to its motherland. Last year Buhai returned to LA, opening a West Coast design studio for the label in Atwater Village; Mayock remains in New York, but loves spending time in LA whenever she can. “Vena Cava has always had this undercurrent of old-Hollywood-meets-LA-garage-sale style, but filtered through a New York lens,” says Buhai. “I’m at my happiest here and find it really inspiring—the lifestyle, the colors, the vegetation.”
Not that Buhai and Mayock have ever lacked inspiration. Known for creating whimsical zines (next topic: housekeeping) and fashion films, the duo launched a second, lower-priced “sister” line in February called Viva Vena!. “With Vena Cava, we always reference very strong, creative, independent women from the past,” says Buhai, citing Yoko Ono and Joan Didion as muses. “Viva Vena! is inspired by girls we actually know who have this eclectic thrift-store style. It’s really spirited, of the moment, and has a lot of energy.” Interiors, menswear, and an LA boutique are all on the designers’ wish list, and, according to Buhai, being back on the “left coast” is igniting those sparks. “In LA, there’s just this sense of possibility that’s really powerful. You’re able to create new rules because they haven’t been set.” Vena Cava and Viva Vena! are available at TenOverSix, 8425 Melrose Ave., LA, 323- 330-9355
BOLD SCHOOL - Clover Canyon
Rozae Nichols’ old-world craftsmanship-meets-bold-new-world aesthetic makes Clover Canyon an A-list fave in LA.
One of the side effects of California living is the constant itch to hop in the car, turn up the radio, and set out on the open road. It’s fitting then that this sense of wanderlust should be the inspiration behind Clover Canyon, perhaps the most invigorating new womenswear label to emerge from LA since its launch in 2011.
“When we set out to do the Spring collection, we wanted to celebrate the Southwest road trip,” says creative director Rozae Nichols, 53, a veteran designer and LA native who shuttered her popular namesake line in 2010. “We immersed ourselves in both classical and modern motifs—roadside diners, motels, desert landscapes, old-school low-rider cars, Johnny Cash, and Texas paisleys.” The result, as with every Clover Canyon collection, is an exuberant visual tapestry of bold color and crisp digital prints—one that’s found favor with everyone from fashion bloggers to Beyoncé.
Although a Clover Canyon garment looks thoroughly modern, each one is handcrafted by Downtown LA craftspeople using what Nichols calls “old-world techniques.” This process just adds to the rich story behind the line, which expanded last year to include swimwear and a print collaboration with LA artist Alexandra Grant. “Ultimately, we want to inspire people to travel, tell stories, and have a sense of humor when they’re wearing our clothes,” says Nichols. “What we set out to convey in every print is that total joy and delight in doing what we do.” Clover Canyon designs are available at Neiman Marcus, 9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-550-5900
CARRIED AWAY! - Clare Vivier
LA’s most beloved bag lady, Clare Vivier goes big-time with an upcoming Apple collab.
Clare Vivier’s success story is one that only could have happened in the digital age. Her first foray into design was with a line of minimalist leather laptop envelopes, which she conceived while working as a French television journalist. As Vivier puts it, these early pieces were designed for “working women and young women in college—there was nothing stylish for them to carry.” Their popularity led to a full-fledged, made-in-LA handbag collection, which is now rabidly coveted by women around the world, thanks to another invention of the Wi-Fi age: the blogosphere. “My blog was very important to my brand because I was self-funded,” says Vivier, 41, who has been posting about her travels, style inspirations, and design process since launching her line in 2008. “I didn’t have investors or family money to advertise, so I had to figure out a way to create a brand, and I did it through my blog.”
Today, the Clare Vivier brand is marked by a refreshing simplicity—totes, clutches, and iPad sleeves rendered in rich-colored leather, devoid of needless embellishment—a style that appeals to fans like Katie Holmes and Rashida Jones. “It’s classic, but there’s always something a little ‘off’ about it, whether it’s a contrast zipper, a stripe or something else,” says Vivier of her aesthetic. For fall 2013, Vivier is experimenting with printed leathers, and she will also be launching a line of bags for men.
Although Vivier has lots of other exciting plans on the horizon for this year—including a boutique in New York and the beginning stages of a sandal collection—the most intriguing is an upcoming laptop bag collaboration with Apple, which brings her journey full circle. “It’s a really good time for Los Angeles designers,” she muses. “There’s a great community of talented creative people here who are very supportive of each other. And the rest of the world seems to be interested in what we’re doing.” Clare Vivier, 3339 Sunset Blvd., LA, 323-665-2476
photography by jana cruder