MR PORTER Makes a Case for California as a Fashion Capital
There’s a new breed of brands coming from the Golden State. In recent years, stores like 424 on Fairfax, Magasin, Wild Style LA, and labels like John Elliott, RHUDE, and BILLY have brought a new energy to the Los Angeles fashion scene. This attitude was galvanized by Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Saint Laurent, moving the house’s headquarters to LA, and Tom Ford, who opted to show his FW15 womenswear in LA instead of Europe.
Of course, Fairfax Avenue and La Brea have also contributed greatly to LA’s style rep, housing influential shops like UNION and the old streetwear guard like Supreme, The Hundreds, and Undefeated. Perhaps that’s why the city is uniquely poised to flourish in a time where the lines between upscale fashion and culturally-savvy independent labels are much blurrier than they were a decade ago.
It’s clear that the case for why Los Angeles is a fashion capital is stronger than ever, and the latest evidence is a new collection from MR PORTER. The e-commerce platform’s “Made in California” capsule is its biggest one yet, collaborating with 12 labels (four of which are new to the site) on 145 exclusive pieces.
Tapping streetwear stalwarts like Stüssy to buzzy labels like Amiri, the capsule also sees the induction of Noon Goons to the site, a surf-inspired label with a youthful attitude. It also happens to be designed by some of the guys behind defunct surf-streetwear line Warriors of Radness. The collection launched yesterday, and will be feted with a Los Angeles party tonight, replete with In-N-Out burgers and churros, naturally.
We spoke to MR PORTER’s Buying Manager, Sam Lobban, about the new capsule, what attracts him, a Londoner, to California, and why menswear’s next big moment is happening on the West Coast.
One thing that stood out in this particular collection is the California attitude and surf influence. Skate-wear has long been fetishized in fashion, now there is a spat of brands that have more of a surf vibe.
I guess to some extent, if you extend out the surf vibe, it becomes this kind of “weekend at the beach,” but at a fashionable, quite cool level. It’s something that we’ve always revolved around, because we very much consider the MR PORTER guy as very well-traveled. Like, spending the weekend at the beach, and then throwing on a really lovely sweater over whatever you’re swimming in. We try and promote that quite a lot.
For me, the skate thing is an urban iteration, and the surf thing is not exclusively West Coast—but I think you’d argue that people in LA spend a lot of time in on the beach. Of course, you can surf in New York, and there’s people that make brands out of that. In my head, I think of West Coast surf. I guess for us, the surf/skate theme was super important, and I would agree that there’s definitely a surfy sort of element to it. It’s in the washed-out palette, the fabrication, and the slouchy, super-casual vibe.
Stüssy started as a surf company, and it was the first subcultural surf label. Now that’s permeating labels like John Elliott, which features a lot of beach-inspired clothes in its latest collection. Does it represent a specific kind of California style?
Stüssy’s the O.G. right? It’s the first one, and one of the things that sort of impresses me so much about Stüssy specifically is how they managed to some extent refresh their customer base. It’s been going for 35 years. There’s 40-year-olds that were wearing it originally, but there’s still 20-year-olds that are just getting into it and discovering it almost like it’s their brand—which it is, because it’s anyone’s. It’s like it’s the first time around again. I think that’s very clever.
Everything, to some extent, is cyclical. I think part of this renewed sort of spotlight on West Coast style naturally plays into that, because of the color palette, the vibe, the easiness of it, and washed-out, laid-back dude element. It’s all super synonymous with surf. If I think of what a surfer dude’s wearing when he’s not in the water or coming out of the water, it’s ripped jeans, bomber jackets, and open plaid shirts and prints.