"It was a cultural wilderness when I first arrived,Â”" recalls Robert Kuo, who immigrated to Los Angeles in 1973 from China as a young man to start a design business based on the ancient Chinese craft of cloisonné.
Los Angeles has come a long way since then. As the city traded its status-by-tarot-card vibe of the ’60s for a status-by-credit-card materialism of the ’70s, it amped up both the creation and consumption of luxury products—as witnessed by the rise of the “Golden Triangle” shopping mecca centered in Beverly Hills, which was originally developed by the Rodeo Land and Water Company. A melting pot for so many ethnicities, with their diverse trades and crafts, LA epitomizes humanity’s sum knowledge of creativity and skill. “I opened my studio here because I can access designers, vendors, and materials unlike anywhere else in the world,” says former New Yorker Julia Teachey Lemle, whose jewelry line, Julieri, graces high-end boutiques from Bel-Air to Bahrain.
The city’s unique gift for producing high-end products has also been spurred by its high-tech and aerospace industries. Interestingly, Moraga Vineyards in Bel-Air uses air filters created for Skylab and a state-of-the-art monitoring system enabling its winemaker to micro-adjust Moraga’s fermentation tanks from any Internet connection in the world. Not coincidentally, Tom Jones, who created Moraga, was once the CEO of Northrop Grumman.
It also helps that LA’s natives are often the best and most well-heeled consumers of its artisanal products; where there’s wealth, there’s the desire for the trappings of wealth. And there’s always been a gold rush of one kind or another going on here. There were even vineyards planted on the banks of the LA River, in what would become Downtown, to lubricate early settlers whose pockets were lined with silver mined from the Sierras.
Now that LA has become a true global hub, it is nourishing the kind of talent and sense of luxury worthy of international renown. After all, this has become a city based not only on the consumption, but rather the production of culture. As author, luxury-brand consultant, and broadcaster Bronwyn Cosgrave commented when Saint Laurent moved its atelier from Paris to Los Angeles last year: Â“Hollywood is the new catwalk.Â”
Here are four local talents whose unique products are synonymous with luxury far, far beyond the LA River.