California Glamour Makes a Comeback
By Anne Riley-Katz
Hollywood and its residents are continually reinventing themselves, especially when it comes to fashion. And lately, LA—a bastion of übercasual style—is once again riding high with a return to its more glamorous roots. A new form of casual, airy chic has emerged on the West Coast, one that has a decidedly more fashion-forward, European flair—a shift that has allowed all Angelenos, as well as fashion followers worldwide, to breathe an overdue sigh of relief.
California’s fashion heritage has long been one of glamour, as Hollywood starlets on and off the red carpet—and Tinseltown costumers—have shaped public consciousness in the highest echelons of couture, and fueled an international appetite for high-end apparel. Think Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy, Elizabeth Taylor in Dior, Nancy Reagan in her trademark Galanos (an LA original!), and the early days of influential Hollywood costumers like Edith Head and Orry-Kelly.
In more recent years, however, a sloppier sartorial look took hold on the West Coast, one that threatened to tarnish the Golden State’s storied, red-carpet-ready reputation. A glut of overpriced denim, T-shirt brands, and jersey clothing lines combined with the crippling effect of the recession on the state were among the culprits for the stunting of California couture. LA style became synonymous with a series of bad clichés: ubiquitous velour track suits, Uggs with short shorts, trucker hats, and tattoo-inspired T-shirt lines—and all were eventually vilified as a slothful, apathetic style born of Californians clueless to real fashion.
Retailers like Fred Levine, who founded the Southern California nine-store contemporary chain M. Fredric, has noted a distinct change in the West Coast look over the last five years or more, and agreed the old version of casual cool is no longer.
“California has always been perceived as cool, and always will be; it’s just a new level of sophistication we’re growing into, since fashion is dynamic,” Levine says. “The yogawear for going-out-to-lunch look is really finished. It’s no longer acceptable, though it once was, for streetwear.”
All of this begs the question: what ever happened to the old California cool, and what exactly constitutes the new?
“[For a while in recent decades], there was a laziness about California’s style, and people here were very much dressed down,” says Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist Nicolas Bru, whose clients include Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Kelly Osbourne. “But now you see something quite different. There’s a retro/ boho yet urban chic, a sophistication you didn’t see before.” A full-court press toward contemporary fashion, which took shape in the mainstream about five years ago, helped urge California on its current path back to casual cool.
photography by antonio de moraes barros filho/wire image/getty images (YSL); dannymartindale/wire image/getty images (hamm); ilya s. savenok/getty images (skaist-taylor); jason laveris/filmmagic/gettyimages (deschanel); alberto L. Ortega/getty images (blunt) opposite page: edward james/getty images (de la photography by jean baptiste lacroix/wire image/getty images (osbourne); amy graves/wire image/getty images (anderson); christopher peterson/filmmagic/ getty images (lohan); l. cohen/wire image/getty images (ford) renta); alo ceballos/filmmagic/getty images (henson); gilbert carrasquillo/filmmagic/getty images (richie);ron sachs-pool/getty images (hathaway)photography (opposite spread) by maria valentino/mcv photo; (this page) hulton archive/getty images (rogers); transcendental graphics/getty images (taylor, bogart)
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.