Review: The ‘Fashion in LA’ picturebook puts Cali dreaming back on the map

This article was originally published here on _Shift London

The brainchild of media marvels Tania Fares and Krista Smith, Fashion in LA, reads like a smooth road trip through the states. It accelerates your history knowledge, maintains speed with informative brand memoirs and shifts things up a gear with striking photography. A non-fiction hardback bursting with local pride. It’s an insight into the creative sidewalks of Los Angeles – where a melting pot of independent brands is bubbling up – tracking their influence on the fashion market, as they ascend to global stardom.

Upon unboxing the book one can marvel at its cover, decorated with a vibrant font and graphic photo collage: denim, sequins and a slew of sunglasses. The spread sets a sunny tone in both image theme – with palm trees aplenty – and overall feel; the kind of positivity that you would associate with the West Coast. Its inch-thick spine is inscribed with a list of brands that feature inside, demonstrating the efforts Fares and Smith have gone to in order to curate this behemoth fashion bible. Both acquainted with Cali-living, the editors seek to put LA on the map as a creative epicentre, compiling the guide to capture a spectrum of talents across the city. “With that laid-back lifestyle where one minute you can be in gritty Downtown, the next hiking in the mountains,” says Fares in the foreword, “LA is a constant source of inspiration.”

Andrea Lieberman: ALC. Image courtesy of Cameron McCool (page 163)

Tania Fares is a multi-faceted maven: with a resume that documents her role as founder of Fashion Trust, philanthropist, not to mention experience as a financier and contributing editor to high-profile magazines such as British Vogue. While Krista Smith is an LA-based media consultant for Netflix, she is conversant in fashion, having spent 25 years at Vanity Fair as executive West Coast editor. In the book, the two advocate City of Angels as a fashion hub contender, to be seated alongside Paris or Milan. What began as a collaboration between friends is now nothing less of a glossy-paged spectacle, and is second in a series of city directories. 

Best described as a style encyclopedia, the tome offers an A to Z guide that can be browsed at leisure. Beautifully descriptive, it tells the LA style evolution tale through well-grounded interviews by the likes of Roger Vivier VIP ambassador, Anne Crawford, and Vogue.com contributor, Alexis Brunswick. We are introduced to a web of design specialisms – from beachwear, to wedding attire, to jewellery –  that are woven together by a tight community thread. It immerses the reader in a fresh culture through personal anecdotes and exclusive images; concurrently raising questions about the future of US design. “I think the world has had an overall casualization,” says A.L.C. designer Andrea Liberman. “I came down [to LA] because of the proximity to the resources I needed. It just felt right.”

There is a warm undertone of friendship in the book and a strong urge of individuality – mostly found in innovation: be it architectural ballgowns or cone-heeled plexiglass mules. Familiar faces are dotted throughout, as we delve into the studios of Rodarte and Jeremy Scott, giving one a front row seat to fashion show preparations. Think fun, fly-on-the-wall.

Irene Neuwirth Jewellery. Image courtesy of Chantal Anderson (page 201, left)

Rather, its lack of traditional chapters means that the book is a rolling, carefree read much like the ethos of its 41 shortlisted designers. All radiating a sense of casual, California-cool. From Beverly Hills to Koreatown, originality is ample and Fashion in LA manages to dig up every nook of it across 280 pages. It explores fiefdoms beyond fashion – prising influence from skaters and the electronic music scene to name but a couple. Before chronicling the creative process, we learn of each brand’s introduction into the city, their successes, and their tribulations. In the first book to record the LA’s design scene, Fares and Smith have spotlighted truly niche avenues. Unravelling classics, including West Coast denim, and stripping it back raw to how it all began. 

Possibly the most heartening aspects are the many labours of LA love involved, seeing just how instrumental they are to the city’s development. Take Irene Neuwirth’s carved strawberry earrings that are intricately hand-crafted from opal in a quaint studio, under the watchful eye of her two fluffy dogs. Back in 2002, the scene was described by Scott as having “zero, ziltch, nada,” creative output but this hardback proves anything but that. Delighting in its oceanic yet mountainous surroundings, many designers consider the Golden State to be, well, gold for its wealth of natural inspiration and friendly spirit. “LA is having its moment in the sun, a new golden era,” muses Fares.

Fashion in LA takes this California dream, unpicks it, unearths its treasures and hands it back you – tied into a colourful gift of pristine imagery and enlightening interviews.

Edited by Tania Fares and Krista Smith, Fashion in LA, £65, will be released on October 18. Pre-order now at www.phaidon.com.

Header image: FASHION IN LA, EDITED BY TANIA FARES AND KRISTA SMITH, PUBLISHED BY PHAIDON, £65.00 (PHAIDON.COM). ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF PHAIDON

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