The Look

Young Americans

A new wave of creative talents explain why LA is the only place they want to be

  • Mr Riley Hawk, 23, son of – yes – that Mr Hawk

As Mr John Lennon reportedly once said of LA, “It’s just a big parking lot”. Until recently, LA was the punchline to every joke told by smug New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians who sneered at the city’s lack of culture, creativity and class. Well, not anymore. Los Angeles has long been an entertainment capital, but it is currently enjoying a cultural renaissance with newly burgeoning art, music, tech and food scenes. More than 50 art galleries have sprouted in LA since 2013, according to LA Weekly. Fast Company magazine reports that start-up whizz-kids are leaving San Francisco’s Silicon Valley for LA’s Silicon Beach. And last year, GQ called Downtown LA “America’s next great city”. Fashion brands are also suddenly warming to the city’s off-duty cool – Burberry, Tom Ford and, just this week, Saint Laurent have all held catwalk shows here. Indeed, Saint Laurent’s creative director, Mr Hedi Slimane, has moved his design studio from Paris to LA.

Young creatives are heading west in a one-way migration, attracted by relatively affordable rents, enviable weather and an outdoorsy work-life balance. For our “young Americans” portfolio shoot around the canals of Venice Beach, MR PORTER assembled a cast of up-and-comers who are making a career out of their passions for music, art, skating and surfing. Though none of them was born in LA, the allure of this vibrant city has drawn them in.

Mr Jesse Rutherford and Ms Devon Carlson

MR PORTER first met the lead singer of indie band The Neighbourhood (aka THE NBHD) back in 2013 when he appeared in one of our “A Saturday With…” films. Mr Rutherford, 24, is about to head to Europe to tour the band’s second album, Wiped Out!. He grew up in Newbury Park, a suburban town south of LA, but now lives in Los Feliz (near the Hollywood Hills) with his girlfriend Ms Devon Carlson, 21. The couple, who met at school, have been together a year and have recently acquired a shih tzu pomeranian chihuahua puppy, Martin, who accompanies them everywhere.

What’s it like to live in Los Feliz?

Mr Rutherford: It’s considered a pretty hip neighbourhood.

Ms Carlson: It’s near Griffith Park, where a lot of people go hiking. And there are some cool houses, like Ennis House, which looks like a Mayan temple. It’s been in lots of movies, such as Blade Runner.

What do you love most about LA?

Mr Rutherford: Back home, it was all chain family restaurants, nothing open late. In LA, we can go out at 10.00pm or 1.00am, or whenever, and places are packed with a bunch of people our age.

Where do you like to hang out?

Mr Rutherford: We like diners a lot; 24-hour breakfast food.

Ms Carlson: Café 101 is our favourite.

Mr Rutherford: That’s what we call it, but after about two years, we read the sign properly and it’s actually called 101 Coffee Shop.

Ms Carlson: It’s this amazing 1970s diner attached to a Best Western hotel. There’s also a restaurant in Silver Lake called The Kitchen where we always go on dates.

All your music videos and social media pictures are in black and white – why?

Mr Rutherford: It’s the visual element to our sound. It’s just our signature. This shoot is actually the first one I’ve done that isn’t black and white. Devon brings the colour.

How would you describe your style?

Mr Rutherford: I like to dress my mood and if that is considered dressing up, well, OK. It’s about experimentation. We share each other’s clothes, make up…

Ms Carlson: I’m wearing his shirt and jacket right now.

Mr Rutherford: And I’m wearing her underwear. Just kidding. We haven’t gone there… yet.

Mr Cam Richards

Mr Cam Richards has surfed competitively since the age of 10 and as such has been travelling the world, often unaccompanied, since he was 13. He grew up in Garden City, South Carolina, where his father, a local surfing guru, has a surf shop and shapes boards. Together they restore vintage motorcycles. In 2013, Mr Richards made his name when he came within 200 votes of defying the odds and beating Mr Dane Reynolds, one of the world’s top surfers, in an online vote for the best surf clip. Now 20, Mr Richards lives on his own in Costa Mesa, a beach town south of LA – although he estimates he only spends three months of the year there.

What’s the secret to making a career out of surfing?

Nowadays, it’s all about online. If you post a cool video, there’s going to be millions of people who see it. That’s how you build your profile and your following for sponsors and magazines. After going up against Dane, we’ve since become friends. And people such as Kelly Slater now know who I am, which is pretty awesome.

Is it true you were the youngest surfer ever to win a pro contest?

Yeah, I was 10 and it was an all-ages contest. I actually got punched in the water by a guy who was probably about 22 at the time when I beat him. When we got back to the beach everyone said, “I can't believe you were beaten by a kindergartner!” That was a cool moment in my career, it made my dad super happy and was the start of me getting sponsors.

Does your dad shape your boards?

He used to when I was a kid, but not anymore as I need boards that are consistent. My dad’s old school and refuses to use a computer, so each of his boards are slightly different and he can’t make that many of them.

Is the life of a pro surfer as good as it sounds?

The only downside is that I never get to call a place home. I’m constantly living out of my board bag. But I get to see the world and make great friends. I rarely stay in hotels, as it’ll be like, “Oh, I’m going to Peru, I know that kid from that contest.” And the next thing you know, you’re staying at his house. It’s a really cool industry that makes a big world small.

When you’re in LA, where do you hang out?

My favourite place is called On The Rox, which is above The Roxy in West Hollywood. It’s a pretty rad spot where all my friends go for a good time.

What’s the secret to enjoying LA?

Owning a motorcycle. My dad got me into vintage motorcycles and I have two 1968 Triumph Bonnevilles back home. Motorcycles beat the traffic.

Mr Garrett Borns

Mr Garrett Borns has been performing all his life. At 10, he was a magician with a successful stage show in Michigan called Garrett The Great. He won a National Scholastic Art Award at just 13, then he turned his hand to music, learning the piano and teaching himself guitar. He moved from New York to LA “unintentionally” two-and-a-half years ago, initially for a change of writing scene. He rented a treehouse in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Canyon Country and ended up staying. Now known by his stage name BØRNS, which “is easier to find on search engines and hashtags”, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter is winning rave reviews for his dreamy California-enthused synth-pop, coming to a summer festival near you.

Where does your creativity come from?

My folks are really artsy people. My dad is a talented artist and graphic designer and all their friends are artists and photographers. My first self-expression was visual arts and painting. Then I started just writing my own songs, embellishing on the songs that I was learning, just coming up with my own repertoire.

Why did you move to LA from New York?

For some writing sessions and a change of scenery. I came across this tree house up in the Hills on Airbnb and found it to be a really fertile environment. Songs were just pouring out of me. There’s so much room to daydream. Whenever I write music, I want it to echo into space. I feel like my music is written for wide, open spaces.

How would you describe your sound?

It definitely has that old Southern California vibe to it. Very Beach Boys, kind of Bee Gees-inspired harmonies. The songs themselves come from a lot of different inspirations. I listen to a lot of 1960s psychedelic rock, 1970s disco and also a lot of pop music.

What music is inspiring you right now?

The new Bowie album, for sure. It’s so beautiful and eloquent. He sounds like the voice of God on it. It’s the perfect farewell album. And then… Justin Bieber!

What do you love most about LA?

The tacos. There’s just so much amazing food. I feel like I always hear about new places in LA that I’m just like, “What? That exists!?” I know a lot of pretty lovely people here, too. There’s an overall relaxed attitude in the air, which I like.

Mr Riley Hawk

With the most famous surname in skateboarding, Mr Riley Hawk, 23, had to overcome accusations of nepotism before being accepted as a professional skater in his own right. His father, Mr Tony Hawk, is possibly the most successful skateboarding icon of all time. But rather than follow in his father’s tracks on the vert ramp, Mr Riley Hawk is instead making a name for himself as a street skater. He lives close to his father in San Diego with his three best friends, but commutes to LA a couple of times a week where his skateboarding team is based. When he’s not skating, Mr Hawk plays in a stoner rock band and he’s also developing his skills as a tattoo artist.  

As a pro skateboarder, how do you spend your days?

Jacob, one of the guys I live with, is a skate videographer, which works out really well because we just wake up, and go skate. Lately, I’ve been trying to skate as much as I can as I’ve finally recovered from an ankle injury.

Injuries must be an occupational hazard in your line of work…

Yeah. It’s such a stressful thing because skating is so heavily dependent on how your body functions, so if you get hurt, you just instantly think, “Oh, I’m done.”

What was it like growing up as the son of Tony Hawk?

I didn’t really understand it when I was younger, it was just kind of a bizarre thing to be brought into. Then you step back and you’re like, “Oh, wow – this is pretty awesome.” I’ve never seen him say no to an autograph or a picture or anything. He’s always been really cool, which is pretty rad.

Does the surname help or hinder?

Actually, it’s cool. At first people weren’t sure how to feel about it. They were like, “Oh, maybe he’s getting hooked up because of who his dad is.” I wasn’t doing it because I wanted fulfill my dad’s legacy, I just really loved skating as a kid and, once I started getting better, I didn’t care what people thought.

Tell us about your tattoos.

All of them have been done by my friends. My first tattoo was a Black Sabbath one. Some of my worst tattoos are my favorites just because of the memories and the good times that come with the tattoo. Once you have a lot, the shitty ones blend in. And I keep them all black and white.

If you weren’t skateboarding, what would you be doing?

I don’t know. Not something where I’d have to sit at a desk.

Mr Ben Nordberg

Mr Ben Nordberg, 26, grew up in Bath, South West England, where he honed his skating skills before being headhunted by the elite Flip Skateboards team for a move to LA. He is known for his effortless, asleep-at-the-wheel skating style that makes everything look easy. In 2014, Mr Nordberg was scouted by Next Models via Instagram and last year shot a major campaign for DKNY alongside Ms Cara Delevingne. He now balances the two careers. Mr Nordberg lives in West Hollywood and goes surfing in Malibu most mornings and skating most afternoons.

Is Bath a good place for skateboarding?

No, it’s terrible. There’s one skate park and most of the time it was wet. We had to resort to all sorts of stuff to try and skate. We used to skate in shop corridors and any kind of dry floor we could find.

How did skating become more than just a hobby?

I never set out with the intentions of being a skater when I was 11, I was just messing about. I think when I was 16 or 17, I started to get a few sponsors, and still didn’t really think that it could be a job. Skateboarding has given me the chance to travel the world, meet some great people along the way and I wouldn’t trade that for anything

What music are you skating to right now?

When I skate, I listen to Metallica, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest or Led Zeppelin. All that kind of stuff. Heavy metal gets me going. It might not look like it because everyone thinks I look stoned, but in my head I’m psyched!

Where do you like to hang out in LA?

There’s a bar called No Name on Fairfax, which is good. And if I was going to go to a club, maybe Blind Dragon, which is my buddy’s place – although I’m not drinking or smoking at the moment as I’m starting to feel it a little these days. I’m trying to keep as healthy as I can.

What do you love about living in LA?

The weather is unreal. You can go months without seeing rain. It’s nice to know that you’re going to wake up to blue skies every single day. There are great restaurants and the beach is 30 minutes away, not to forget the hot girls…