Made In California
Introducing 12 exclusive collections from the best West Coast designers
Photograph by Mr Neil Gavin. Styling by Ms Sophie Hardcastle, Executive Fashion Editor, MR PORTER
Why LA? First of all, designers, creatives and artists are moving in vast numbers to California, where they can get more for their money (for now, at least). Second, as the wheel of fashion turns from buttoned-up formality to casual flexibility and elevated streetwear, suddenly the focus is zeroing in on LA cool. (Saint Laurent and Balmain have known this for a while.) Third, as the traditional fashion week model is being reinvented, brands are increasingly showing where and when they want. And several of the major fashion powerhouses – Burberry, Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and, most recently, Hermès – have been choosing to show in Los Angeles of late.
At MR PORTER we, too, have noticed something unusual bubbling up in California. Business has always been strong in the Golden State, but in the past 18 months it has, to use a technical retail term, gone nuts.
So, we thought we’d do something to celebrate. For our Made In California project, we asked 12 brands to produce an exclusive capsule collection for MR PORTER under that deliberately open-to-interpretation title. As if to reinforce the notion that much of what is new and exciting in American menswear right now is coming out of the West Coast, four of the 12 brands are new launches on MR PORTER this week, and five of them – John Elliott, AMIRI, Second/Layer, Outerknown and Noon Goons – have sprung up in the past five years. You can read more about each of them on the MR PORTER Daily this week and next.
The project has been spearheaded by Mr Sam Lobban, our Buying Manager, who is based in the US and who personally invited each of the brands – from the old guard to the new wave – to come on board and worked with them on their respective capsules. So, it is only right that he should introduce them. Over to you, Mr Lobban.
“Since exploding onto the scene in 2012, Mr John Elliott has become one of the leading designers in the US. There’s so much excitement around the brand. He’s a good ambassador for what’s going on in California right now. He’s from San Francisco, but now lives and works in LA. He’s cool, he’s personable, and he’s got a clear idea of what he wants to do with the business and the products he makes, both aesthetically and in terms of where he wants it to sit and the customer he wants to buy into it. He’s a really clever guy, doing what he wants to do and having fun doing it. I think that’s admirable.
“The John Elliott vibe is LA denim and sportswear and it feels very California. His SS17 collection was called Watching Water, which had quite a beach/pool vacation feel, and this capsule came out of that, with a complementary colour palette of muted greens, blues, greys and pinks in linens and basketweave fabrics that all feel light, summery fresh and clean.
“This is a brand that perfectly encapsulates LA style right now and we’re super excited to bring it onto MR PORTER. It has only been going three years, but has developed a cult following in that time. This is the first time it’s done an exclusive capsule with anyone. The way we put this capsule together with the team was: if you didn’t know AMIRI, which 12 products would sum up the brand and the vibe perfectly? It’s laidback, laissez-faire LA rock ’n’ roll in amazing fabrics made to the highest specs.
“We’ve got its signature MX1 distressed-denim jeans, which are based on motorcycle jeans with the articulated knee. There’s a beautiful olive overshirt, which is easy to wear and super classic. And then we go all the way up to the made-to-order crystal leather biker jacket, which is made from fine Italian calf skin with individually set Swarovski crystals – arguably the standout piece of the entire Made In California project.”
“The Elder Statesman is a perfect representation of West Coast luxury. We love the vibe and what it stands for. The cashmere is amazing quality, ethically sourced and ethically made in the brand’s production facility in Culver City. And Mr Greg Chait, the designer, is a dude.
“Everyone would quite like to be Mr Chait, I think. He represents his brand perfectly. His cashmere is the kind of cashmere you put on after a surf when going to grab a cool beer, which is pretty much how he wears it. The key is in its slouchiness: open-knit cashmere, which makes it light, but also quite chunky.
“With this capsule, you get an idea of Mr Chait’s sense of humour. He’s taking us on an alternative tour of California tourist spots such as Chinatown, written in the style of a Spirit Jersey tee (which would normally say something like Malibu or Venice Beach), Greetings From Palm Springs, featuring wind turbines instead of palm trees (yes, they do wind farm tours, apparently), and Salvation Mountain, which is a folksy sculpture in the desert made out of junk. My personal favourite piece is the hand-dyed sun-bleached sweater that looks like a watermelon.”
“Each designer interpreted the Made In California brief differently – we deliberately left it quite open – and Simon Miller designer Mr Daniel Corrigan’s concept works as one cohesive story, a complete capsule wardrobe in which all the pieces can be mixed and matched together.
“The blue, pink and peach colour palette represents a Californian sunset. This is Mr Corrigan’s take on beach culture with a sun-faded quality to it which, at one and the same time, feels nostalgic yet very now. That blush-pink colour, in particular, is bang on trend for this summer.
“Simon Miller is arguably known as a jeans brand first and foremost, but its casualwear is lovely and this capsule is a great way of showcasing what else it can do with fabric. The pink corduroy jacket is a particular standout.”
“One of the things that has always impressed me about Stüssy is its ability to maintain its relevance as a brand and therefore continually refresh its fanbase. So, it appeals to the 16-year-old now just as it appealed and still appeals to his dad, who was into skate and surf culture growing up and still appreciates those reference points, just in a more elevated way.
“This capsule harks back to the heyday of mid-1990s Californian sportswear, which is, of course, very Stüssy – it helped create that. It references some of Stussy’s signature silhouettes and its easy-wear philosophy on and off the beach.
“The strongest look is the Hawaiian print shirt with matching shorts, which, according to Stussy’s design director Mr Nin Truong, pays homage to the original wallpaper from the Beverly Hills Hotel. And then you’ve got some washed-out pigment-dyed basics – tees and sweats with the iconic Stüssy graph logo. As Mr Truong says, ‘This collection is for the dirtbag who only gets out of bed for waves.’”
“Speak to Mr John Elliott, Mr Mike Amiri, stylist Mr Eugene Tong or Fear Of God founder Mr Jerry Lorenzo and they all rave about the Second/Layer guys – brothers Messrs Joshua and Jacob Willis and longtime friend Mr Anthony Franco. They truly embody their laidback brand. The name is all about your clothes being a natural, unforced extension of who you are.
“All three grew up surfing and skating and established Second/Layer in a Venice Beach basement, so the chilled lifestyle and SoCal cultural references are genuine rather than appropriated. But there is an edge, too. Growing up in predominantly Mexican neighbourhoods has also been a source of inspiration.
“This capsule collection is another where the pieces work really well together and it’s very on trend with camp-collar shirts, a knitted polo, and loose drawstring shorts and sweatpants. It’s all about the fit. They coined the phrase ‘tailor-made daily wear’ and you can see that. They’re taking loose, slouchy skate silhouettes and combining that with current trends.”
“The name makes me laugh. Noon Goons is a knowing surf reference to people who turn up to the beach at midday after the surfers have all left.
“To walk into founder Mr Kurt Narmore’s raw Downtown LA loft is to understand the countercultural references. He has a stack of eight or nine surf boards of various shapes and sizes in one corner and the main wall is a framed art installation of surf, skate and punk photography. For those who like a pun, Mr Narmore’s production company is called SewCal. His brand mantra? Skate, surf, party, repeat.
“Noon Goons is new to MR PORTER, so its capsule is an edited snapshot of what it does, which essentially is pretty timeless casual apparel for surfers and skaters. Highlights include a zip-through red plaid flannel shirt, a royal blue corduroy jacket and a bleached denim hoodie. Everything is made in LA.”
“Although Mr Rick Owens has been based in Paris for 14 years now, his West Coast roots run pretty deep. He grew up in Porterville, California, and then moved to LA as soon as he could, where he studied fashion design and pattern making, met his wife, founded his ground-breaking brand and did some other pretty cool underground stuff. So we felt justified in inviting him to be part of this project. He is an LA designer’s designer – they all consider him a god of sorts.
“We approached Mr Owens, his team agreed and then we waited to see what he came up with. (It’s Rick Owens, after all. The man himself has a fairly clear idea of its aesthetic.) I kind of love that it’s four pieces that make one outfit, whereas all of our other capsules are much fuller offerings. It’s like Mr Owens doing a Venice Beach skater look.”
“Some surfers are hippies, some are rebels, some are punk rockers and some, like the guys who run and contribute to the Mollusk collective in the Ocean Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco, are soulful artists. Opened by husband-and-wife creative team Mr John McCambridge and Ms Johanna St Clair in 2005, Mollusk arguably carved the way for other authentic and independent surf brands such as Saturdays NYC and Battenwear.
“The T-shirts in this collection have a broken-in quality and the one-pocket shirt is incredibly soft with an almost nostalgic quality, like an old favourite shirt. The quick-dry board shorts are also impressively soft, even though they’re made from a quick-drying cotton/nylon swim fabric. The overall palette is redolent of a typically moody San Franciso sky, including colours it calls ‘cloud grey’ and ‘fog’.”
“Golden Bear, the other San Francisco company in the Made In California project, is one of the US’s most celebrated brands. It has been making jackets in the city for 95 years, starting off with heavy-duty leather jackets for the longshoreman on the docks of the Bay carrying cargo on their backs. These days, Golden Bear is better known for its iconic varsity and letterman jackets, Harringtons and bombers, which it makes in collaboration with many of the world’s top fashion houses.
“It’s still a family-owned company, with everything designed and handmade in San Francisco. This introductory capsule is based around two types of varsity jacket – one version using Loro Piana wool for the body with leather sleeves, which is very luxe, and then a lighter, brighter more seasonally appropriate version in cotton poplin. To that we added some classic but colourful Harrington jackets, which are timeless.”
“Started in 2015, this surf brand is an ecologically sustainable design collaboration between the world’s greatest surfer Mr Kelly Slater and designer Mr John Moore, who, thanks to his work with Hawaiian-Japanese swimwear brand M.Nii, has been at the forefront of this surf fashion revival.
“Outerknown is aimed at guys who grew up wearing surf clothes with big logos on them but have grown out of that. The signature aesthetic is clean with minimal branding. However, for this capsule of travel-friendly basics of T-shirts, shorts and hoodies, it has incorporated a recurring design motif, a winking smile from the brand to us, which, if you look at it, is a play on its ‘OK’ branding. It was apparently inspired by Mr Devendra Banhart’s song ‘Can’t Help But Smiling’, which the design team were listening to when creating this collection.”
“Few brands embody the idyll of a relaxed West Coast lifestyle better than James Perse. Mr Perse himself has really been a forerunner of the luxe-casual idea that is so prevalent right now and that in itself feels very Californian. When you go into a James Perse store, you immediately understand that easy elegance. Mr Perse is really into minimalist architecture and interior design, fluid indoor-outdoor living and the low-maintenance, high-comfort clothing that goes with all that.