Beckley Designer Melissa Richardson Akkaway
by sari anne tuschman
Melissa Richardson Akkaway in her Melrose store
There are a few Los Angeles boutiques that seem to not only stock the trends but also help define them. Certainly Beckley—strategically located on the highly trafficked corner of Melrose and Huntley—is just such a destination. Opened by Melissa Richardson Akkaway in 2008, the sophisticated, comfortable and superbly edited shop begs LA’s fashion set to come in, sit down, mingle and, of course, purchase pieces from some of the best and freshest designers in the industry, including Zac Posen, Vena Cava, Gryphon New York, Smythe, 10 Crosby Derek Lam, Sass & Bide and Helmut Lang.
“The main focus for the store wasn’t to reinvent the fashion wheel, but just to open a place that had amazing service, because I felt that was lacking [in LA],” says Akkaway. “I wanted it to be that when a person came in, they could identify with the mainstream designers and also be introduced to lesser-known and local designers. And my goal was to create an environment that was inviting. I’m very much a happy person, and I wanted the store to emulate that.”
Akkaway comes by her passion for all things sartorial quite rightfully. In the early 1900s, her great-grandfather opened a men’s store called Beckley’s in downtown Las Vegas, which catered to the men working on the Hoover Dam or those who passed through on a train that ran through the city. Things have come full circle: At the end of last year, Akkaway opened the second outpost of her boutique in Vegas—her hometown—in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel. While she resides in Pacific Palisades, she says creating that store felt like coming home.
And now there is another project—perhaps Akkaway’s biggest yet. This month she debuts an approximately 20-piece collection of her own designs, aptly called Beckley by Melissa, which will be sold in both of her shops and on a dedicated website. “It started out as a few key items I couldn’t find when I was buying or traveling: a great leather jacket, amazing blouses and things that are easy to pack,” she says. “That’s what drew me into designing, and then once you start, you look at fabrics, and it gets very exciting, and you expand.”
The collection—which walks the line between special-occasion pieces and closet staples—features everything from tie-neck blouses and silk pants to cocktail dresses and basic asymmetrical tees. But the predominant thread tying it all together is undoubtedly leather: There is a cape trimmed in leather, a faux-fur vest with leather detailing on the pocket and statement-making leather leggings. “I had all women in mind—women who love fashion and those who just love getting dressed,” says Akkaway of whom she designed for. “There are some really effortless, easy pieces, and a lot of us in LA wear ‘easy’ but still look really chic.” As for which item from the debut collection is the absolute must-have, she is torn. “It’s between the faux-fur vest and the cape,” she says.
photography by ulrica wihlborg
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.