Seven L.A. Designers to Watch

Keep an eye out for these new designers.

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For their Los Angeles-based brand called Elkin, designing sisters Kara and Brit Smith compose a different reading and music list as inspiration for each of their collections. Their spring lineup is influenced by the American frontier, as portrayed by Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses,” bordello histories and Tammy Wynette tunes.

“We were always dressing up when we were little, we were always reading books,” said Kara Smith, who worked at Geren Ford and Lightning Bolt before launching Elkin for spring 2011 with her younger sibling, who had designed jewelry at Jennifer Meyer. “That’s what dressing up felt like for us: we were characters.” Add to that Brit Smith’s fascination with French lingerie and Kara’s tales of waking up in party clothes from the night before, and a fashion brand was born. Their proclivity for quirky combos also led to the name of their company. After spotting an imposing elk in a taxidermy shop, they decided to blend the word “elk” with “kin,” in honor of their blood ties.

For their spring lineup, a white sheer silk maxidress was inspired by a frontier prostitute’s nightgown, and a wool swing jacket with brass buttons, the sisters say, would have been something worn by a suit-loving female brothel owner. If she had a sassy side, Mary Ingalls Wilder might have cottoned to the minidresses with prim collars and pouf sleeves, highwaisted suede shorts and prairie flower-printed miniskirts.

Retailing for between $150 and $650, the line is sold at Madison, Satine and TenOverSix. — Khanh T.L. Tran


NEXT: Love, Zooey >>

Love, Zooey

After starting Zooey, which she sold to the former Hartmarx Corp. for $3 million in December 2006, and Helloh, a line of casual woven sportswear, Alice Heller is now launching Love, Zooey for the holiday season.

Picking up where Zooey left off, Heller, who is owner and president, and designer Grace Chon are concentrating on a mixture of fabrics with a playful twist. A gray melton wool coat, for instance, is lined with cream cotton-spandex interlocking panels, whereas a curtain of blue silk chiffon covers the back of a heathered pink jersey T-back top. Taking a cue from Heller, who punches up her own brown chukka boots with neon yellow laces, Chon adds fluorescent hues for contrast stitching and layers. (Wholesale prices range from $28 to $265.)

“We’re creating product that we love and we’re putting the craftsmanship in it,” said Chon, who worked at Zooey with Heller before leaving in 2008 to design for 291 Venice. “It’s effortless but you don’t look like a slob.”

Underscoring the line’s versatility, Heller and Chon both wear different pieces from the line in their own way, despite their 20-year age difference. “We may wear it differently but that’s the beauty of it,” Heller said. “You can be of any age but be chic.” — K.T.L.T.


NEXT: 1020 By Nicole >>

1020 By Nicole

“It was natural because it’s what I knew best,” said Nicole Remeny-Goodwin of her decision to go into the leather business. Her grandfather started Los Angeles-based Remy Leather in 1971, where the young Nicole worked during high school and after college, eventually becoming head designer. But 85 percent of the business is traditional men’s wear and Goodwin had her heart set on a women’s line.

1020 by Nicole (named for her factory’s address) launched in fall 2009 with jackets, and spring 2012 marks the first full sportswear collection: lambskin leather dresses and leggings, and knits and jerseys trimmed with leather. Goodwin considers her new pieces more classic than trendy and says they are meant to be layered year-round. “If you are paying a lot you should be able to have them for a lifetime,” she said. Prices range from $45 to $120 wholesale for jersey tank tops and sweaters; $70 to $215 for leather clothes, and $170 to $999 for leather jackets; the line is now carried in 50 boutiques in the U.S., Canada and Japan.

— Marcy Medina




NSF is shedding its tomboy staples for a girlish new look. Under a new creative director, Jamie Haller — who joined NSF last April after four years designing for Ever — the Los Angeles firm is adding silk crepe miniskirts and slipdresses with asymmetric hems to its spring collection. Haller describes the new look as “sloppy-sexy.” In other words, she said, it’s for “girls who are understated and easygoing.”

Founded six years ago as a men’s brand, NSF was based on an easy and carefree aesthetic with pieces that looked plucked from your boyfriend’s closet, i.e., baggy buffalo plaid shirts. “Everything was about taking a men’s item and making it for women,” Haller said. “We’re doing this now from the point of view of what a modern woman wants to wear.” To that end, there are tailored items such as silk shifts trimmed with soutache embroidery, and a jacket in Italian embroidered canvas with matching shorts. The collection has already won over new stores such as Ron Herman, which joins current retailers including Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue. Wholesale prices run between $35 and $360. — K.T.L.T.


NEXT: Of Two Minds >>

Of Two Minds

Sunjoo Moon is giving a sophisticated Parisian edge to Of Two Minds.

Coming from luxury labels such as Kenzo, Missoni and Cerruti 1881, Moon relaunched the year-old Los Angeles brand (founded by Anthony Graham and originally designed by Desanka Fasiska and Stephanie Tran) for fall with fine tailoring and knits, all crafted with a beautiful hand. The spring collection, wholesaling between $65 and $250, features maxidresses, mottled knits and printed silk pants. Ron Herman, Louis Boston, Intermix, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom have picked it up.

“It’s really like an equal mix of the California cool and Paris chic,” said Moon, who was born in South Korea and grew up in Sydney, before moving to Paris at age 17 to study fashion design. She moved to Los Angeles in 2008. In a twist on her own life, Moon’s muse is a California surfer girl who moves to Paris: “She loves color and embellishment. Because she moved to Paris, she’s going to be a little more dressed up.” If the clothes have a certain “je ne sais quoi” that is reminiscent of Isabel Marant, it’s no coincidence. Moon and Marant have been good friends since they met at the Studio Berçot design school in Paris. “As much as I embrace the California lifestyle, I still dress the way I did in Paris,” Moon adds. “I wake up in the morning and put high heels on.” — K.T.L.T.


NEXT: Stand & Deliver >>

Stand & Deliver

Corey Parks’ new collection has a real rebel vibe — and for good reason. “I’m a punk rock kid from the O.C. who played bass for 20 years,” she said. She started sewing custom leather jackets by hand more than a decade ago with encouragement from Rick Owens, whom she met while working the door at his partner Michelle Lamy’s Hollywood restaurant, Les Deux Cafes. That’s also where she met Maxfield owner Tommy Perse. “Ten years ago he bought me a sewing machine,” she recalled, “and said, ‘Now do you think you could make more jackets for my store?’” The jackets are now sewn by machine and they still sell at Maxfield, as does her latest line, Stand & Deliver, which she launched last fall. Comprised of leather dresses, pants, accessories, denim and her signature motorcycle jackets, pieces wholesale from $250 to $1,200.

For spring, Parks has added a high-waisted pencil skirt, crocheted ponchos with leather fringe, cap-sleeved shrugs, thigh-high leather “stockings” and a gray denim studded vest (it’s hardly a surprise that Parks has designed costumes for Rihanna). Jeans come in denim and leather with a six-inch rise in front and 14-inch rise in back, sans yokes or pockets. “People say I shouldn’t just design for myself, but I’m six-foot-three, she said with a laugh. “How else am I going to find clothes?” — M.M.


NEXT: Theonne >>


Im Jung said her new collection is for women who like to borrow clothes from men, thus it’s fitting she named it Theonne. “It’s very unique and it’s androgynous,” said Jung, who worked at BCBG, Cynthia Rowley, Tse and AG Adriano Goldschmied before launching Theonne for fall 2011.

For spring, there are shorts with draped fronts, jacket dresses, dropped-waist cropped pants, cocoon-like zip-up cardigans and some 40 pieces that wholesale from $48 to $150. Silk, open-weave knits and supple blends such as cotton-viscose and rayon-nylon soften the edges of the tailored cuts. Pastel tints and a pop of magenta add a feminine touch to the stark black, gray and white palette. — K.T.L.T.

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