5 emerging l.a. brands to know

Raised on California sun, and the state's legendary skate and surf cultures, a new crew of L.A. designers is on the rise.

by Paige Silveria
02 March 2017, 6:30pm

Noon Goons spring/summer 17

Although New York City is still the undisputed fashion capital of the USA, Los Angeles is beginning to present some competition. This past season, New York brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Rachel Comey left their hometown to present new collections in LA. In recent years, Tom Ford, Hood By Air, and former Saint Laurent ringleader Hedi Slimane have all shown collections on the West Coast. And it's not just established designers. While New York rents continue to reach new heights, the endless and economically dynamic urban sprawl of LA allows young designers space (and quiet) to create -- not to mention how motivating all that sunshine can be. Here are five emerging designers who are stepping up and challenging the fashion world to look west.

James Flemons describes his deconstructed denim-heavy line Phlemuns as a "fusion of of vintage and future -- mixing and recreating things we've already seen, but in a new light and with a different approach." "I like making conceptual ideas more tangible," he says. After posting his one-off designs on social media back in 2013, people started to take notice and Flemons realized it was time to start a brand and create a collection. Asked why he chooses to work from Southern California, he says, "LA is home for me and where I'm most comfortable. I lived in San Francisco and New York, but didn't tap into my creative flow until I moved back to LA in 2011. It's kind of nice being here and seeing the fashion industry shedding more light on [LA] creatives."

Vance Studio
Zoe Vance's namesake printed T-shirt and denim line Vance Studio was born three years ago, out of her desire to get back into drawing. It was something she'd given up for a period of time while living in the craziness of New York — until a friend hired her to create a small-batch collection for the Japanese shop Heather Grey Wall. Things snowballed from there and Vance is launching an e-commerce site this month. "For me isolation breeds creativity. Not to say that I'm bored in LA but it lends to more mental and physical space than a city like New York. That down time allows me to be free to create," she explains. The hand-drawn graphic pieces, which Vance describes as "women's clothing that men want to wear," are heavily inspired by literature like Henry Miller's Big Sur writings and by artists Steina and Woody Vasulka, who made pioneering video installations in the 70s.

Empathy Los Angeles
Empathy Los Angeles is the deeply personal project of 23-year-old LA-born designer Henry Stambler. "I think of the collection as a love poem. Each garment has a soul," he says. After creating the initial cut-and-sew pieces -- which often display samples of poetry -- just about a year ago, Stambler took eight months to shoot a cast of friends who inspired him (including artist Chloe Wise, director/photographer Luke Gilford) for the collection's lookbook. "Rather than being motivated by trends, hype, egoism, or self-conscious extravagance -- values our industry worships -- I wanted to create a collection that expresses intimacy, sincerity and human empathy," he explains, "clothing is just as valid a narrative medium as any other art form, and its capacity for catharsis is also as great. Through it, I tell my own story, and a story about the people I love."

Noon Goons
Its immediately clear where Noon Goons finds its roots. The brand is inspired by the punk, skate, and surf cultures endemic to Southern California, where its two founders, Kurt Narmore and Rick Klotz, were born and raised. (You may recognize Klotz's name for a number of reasons; he launched the controversial and iconic labels Freshjive and Warriors of Radness, the latter earning him a CFDA nomination for Best New Menswear Designer in 2011.) "Rick's a walking encyclopedia of the history and culture of Los Angeles," says Narmore. Completing the team is Sam Jarou (previously a creative consultant for Comme Des Garçons). As the brand gets bigger -- it was recently been picked up by Dover Street Market in New York -- it remains true to its essential mission: "Making shit we're into and making LA proud," as Narmore puts it.

Lefthand LA
Julie Kucharski has been an avid sewer since she was nine. Her seventh-grade science project was a frog-patterned reversible top that would prevent students from ever forgetting their PE shirts and getting detention. She began her handmade, grunge-inspired line Lefthand LA two years ago, when Kubo, the owner of cult store Gr8 Tokyo, saw her in a design of her own making and requested a shipment. "I traded my car, used that money for a studio, and made it happen. My space is like a production house slash store, with a bed in it," she describes. Since then, her colorful one-of-a-kind garments have been seen on the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna. A native of Charleston, "where debutante meets redneck meets dirty South," the LA transplant is hoping to continue growing the brand and to start a cut-and-sew offshoot.


Text Paige Silveria

Los Angeles
empathy los angeles
lefthand woman
noon goons
vance studio