The West

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Fashion has long mythologized the American West, forging certain staples—gauzy dresses, cowboy boots—from its history and lore. Today, however, a growing number of designers are reworking those old codes and points of reference, finding inspiration in sources as wonderfully varied as Montana and New Mexico’s Indigenous cultures; Hollywood; Las Vegas; and the surf in Southern California. If they have anything in common, it’s a shared spirit of freedom and adventure, one articulated by The Elder Statesman’s Greg Chait. “We are about being free-spirited—that’s what we have in Los Angeles,” he says. “Fashion isn’t L.A.’s first language, but creativity is.”

Libertine designer Helena Grierson and model Aneita Moore, both in Libertine.Photographed by Johnson Hartig

Libertine
Los Angeles, California

“Wherever a creative person is, they will be creative,” says Johnson Hartig of Los Angeles–based Libertine, the quirky-clever label that plays with all sorts of vintage tropes—and then embellishes them like crazy, with a Hollywood-like sprinkling of nostalgic stardust to reinvent the past for the present. “I studied art,” he says by way of explanation. “I love decorating surfaces.” While Hartig is L.A.-born and bred, he was, until COVID hit, an inveterate traveler, particularly drawn to experiencing Far Eastern and South Asian cultures. “I’d take two or three major trips a year to replenish my well,” he says. “I’ve not traveled for nine months now, and it’s driving me crazy!” ilovelibertine.comMark Holgate

An assemblage of Diarrablu fabrics.Photographed by Clifford Prince King

Diarra Bousso.

Photographed by Clifford Prince King

Diarrablu
San Francisco, California

Diarra Bousso grew up in Dakar, Senegal, where she produces her label Diarrablu, but spends most of her time in San Francisco, working as a mathematics educator. “Living and working in San Francisco is very inspiring,” Bousso says. “I am constantly trying to find ways to humanely use technology in my work while still empowering our culture and our artisans.” Every garment is made to order to avoid excess stock, and Bousso has created her own algorithms to create designs virtually and crowdsource and produce only what’s needed. Many of the artisans at Diarrablu are family members who have spent decades perfecting their crafts in leather, jewelry, ceramics, and more. “When we design and create, it’s more than just a product,” she says. “It’s a whole story about who we are, and it’s very powerful.” diarrablu.comEmily Farra

Lauren Harwell Godfrey with her dog, Woody. Hair, Barb Thompson; makeup, Lindsey Smith.Photographed by Clifford Prince King

Harwell Godfrey
San Francisco, California

After spending more than 15 years working as an art and creative director, Lauren Harwell Godfrey decided to follow a passion in 2013 and enrolled in the San Francisco Cooking School. Harwell Godfrey staged at the legendary Bar Tartine and Chez Panisse, and in the process learned to love working with her hands—and in short order, she took up jewelry-making, crafting special pieces for herself and her friends. In 2018, her self-titled label of fine jewelry was born. Still based in the Bay Area, Harwell Godfrey works with precious metals and gemstones like malachite, sapphire, and 18K yellow gold. “There’s something intuitive about working with your hands,” she says. “That’s part of the attraction of both food and jewelry: A process with many components that results in something bigger than the sum of its parts has always appealed to me.” harwellgodfrey.comBrooke Bobb

Davis and Arin Hayes, and Autumn Randolph. Right: A sweater in the No Sesso studio.

No Sesso
Los Angeles, California

“No Sesso could exist anywhere in the world,” says the brand’s cofounder and head designer, Pierre Davis. And while its hand-embroidered and genderless pieces may have a universal appeal for their vibrant aesthetic, the brand—founded by Davis and Arin Hayes in 2015—is proudly operated out of Los Angeles. “We just have so many resources literally around us,” Davis says. “Everyone is so open and interested in experimenting and evolving.” While the COVID-19 virus has put a hold on in-person events—“This time has really tested how you adapt to showing up for other people and yourself in a new way,” co-designer Autumn Randolph says—the trio has been putting a focus on direct-to-consumer sales and continuing to connect with their communities, virtually or otherwise. “Some things have changed, some have stayed the same, but the pandemic has made me cherish our collaborators even more,” says Randolph. nosesso.laSteff Yotka

Impressions from the Mulleavy sisters’ life and work.Photographed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy
A pair of Rodarte dresses.Photographed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy

Rodarte
Los Angeles, California

Kate and Laura Mulleavy have always had a deep connection to their home state of California, drawing on its natural beauty for inspiration since the inception of their Rodarte label in 2005. Resisting the siren call of the New York fashion scene, the sisters built a community of like-minded collaborators in Los Angeles, including their longtime stylist Shirley Kurata and the photographer and director Autumn de Wilde. “Sometimes when you push all of fashion onto one platform, it ends up destroying uniqueness,” says Kate. Adds Laura, “It’s only when you open up that landscape that independent voices can come to the fore—and that’s what makes this moment so exciting. This new generation is taking us to places we didn’t know we could go.” shoprodarte.comChioma Nnadi

A sweater from Entireworld.Photographed by Scott Sternberg

Entireworld
Los Angeles, California

Scott Sternberg built both his brands—the late, lamented Band of Outsiders and the pandemic-proof basics label Entireworld—in Los Angeles. But where Band was East Coast prepster and played by the New York Fashion Week rules, Entireworld’s matching sweatsuits and direct-to-consumer sales model are pure California. “You go to dinner here, and there are drawstrings involved,” Sternberg says, laughing. “There’s a shift of values going on: Where we put our money, the role that brands play in our lives, the importance of buying less but buying better.” Staying focused is the name of his game for 2021. He’s going deep on sweats and launching what he calls a “low-impact legging” that’s more natural-feeling than true exercise gear. “We don’t need to keep adding more and more stuff,” he says. “I’m more clear about what doesn’t belong.” theentireworld.comNicole Phelps

The designer with model Ellen Rosa (wearing Moschino Couture).Photographed by Marcus Mam

Jeremy Scott
Los Angeles, California

Is it any wonder that Jeremy Scott went Hollywood? The Kansas City, Missouri, native dazzled Paris in the late ’90s—he was briefly taken under Karl Lagerfeld’s wing, in fact—but his camp aesthetic and affinity for pop culture were always more American than French. In 2001, he moved where the celebrities are and soon started dressing everyone from Lady Gaga to Katy Perry. “Im literally am from pioneer stock, and I just came out here to sift for gold,” Scott says. “It was probably one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve ever made—and also the smartest.” His latest Moschino outing—a re-creation of an haute couture show made in collaboration with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (the maker of the Muppets) and starring a marionette version of Scott’s fellow Angeleno Gigi Hadid—was so well received that he’s planning another film for his next collection, this time with real humans. jeremyscott.comN.P.

An artful arrangement of knits by The Elder Statesman.Photographed by Liam MacRae
Greg Chait, at home with his daughter, Dorothy Sue.Photographed by Liam MacRae
Photographed by Liam MacRae

The Elder Statesman
Los Angeles, California

“We are about being free-spirited—that’s what we have in Los Angeles,” says Greg Chait (left), founder of The Elder Statesman. “Fashion isn’t L.A.’s first language, but creativity is.” Chait’s knitwear label (the 2012 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner) offers boho/luxe cashmere in a groovy earthy-goes-cosmic color palette. Many of the pieces are created by his team of knitters working both at the label’s downtown Los Angeles studio and from their homes, artisans Chait considers the label’s lifeblood. “You have to lean into craft that’s exceptional,” he says. elder-statesman.comM.H.

Isadora Alvarez at home.Photographed by Michelle Terris

Back Beat Co.
Los Angeles, California

Isadora Alvarez, the Filipino-born founder of Back Beat Co., established in 2016, calls her pieces “Cali-inspired, low-impact clothing.” Indeed, the fabrics making up the label’s surf-and-skate-inspired separates—waffle-knit joggers, cropped puffer jackets, perfect hoodies—are all either recycled or made from sustainably harvested crops, with other thoughtful initiatives still in the offing. “We’re working on a program where we can take back old clothing we’ve sold and create new yarns out of it,” Alvarez says. (Systems for repairing and upcycling are also on her list.) As long as Back Beat produces new pieces, minimizing waste will be the top priority: “That’s the dream,” she says, “and the goal.” backbeat.coMarley Marius

The designer (far left), with friends and family—Olivia Rose Williamson, Della Bighair-Stump, Angela Stump, Carrie Moran McCleary, and Samuel Jaxin Enemy-Hunter—wearing his beadwork.Photographed by June Canedo

Elias Jade Not Afraid
Lodge Grass, Montana

Elias Jade Not Afraid, an Apsáalooke beadwork artist, learned his craft while growing up on Montana’s Crow Indian reservation. “I grew up in my great-grandmother’s house, and I was always bored,” he says. “She had her beading equipment in cedar chests, so I would get a needle and thread and try to replicate what she did. Beading was my escape.” Eventually he began combining edgier finishings, such as skulls or spikes, with traditional floral motifs. “We grew up in the country, so it was either stay inside or go outside; I always chose outside.” Today, his work—like his tribe’s—always traces back to the land. “You can learn a lot about Crow beadwork,” he says, “by just looking at the plants around here.” ejnotafraid.comChristian Allaire

Photographed by Ariana Boussard-Reifel
The designer and some of her creations.Photographed by Yasser Ansari

Ariana Boussard-Reifel
Western Montana

Ariana Boussard-Reifel, a sculptor turned jewelry designer, grew up on a Salish and Kootenai reservation in western Montana (though her family is Lebanese and German), and has always been inspired by ethnographic jewelry and fashion. This inspiration originally gave life to Marteau—a collection of vintage and antique jewelry that evokes tribal and Indigenous cultures—and then turned into her self-titled jewelry line of “small, wearable sculptures” in 2016. Boussard-Reifel, who splits her time between New York City and her family ranch near Missoula, believes that not only should her jewelry make one feel “like a goddess,” but it also owes a debt to Indigenous fashion—something reflected in her designs, which range from bold brass cuffs worthy of Wonder Woman to a breastplate necklace inspired by tribal Chinese designs. And while it certainly helps when people like Beyoncé wear her pieces, “the biggest validation,” Boussard-Reifel says, “is when my customers say, ‘When I wear this, I feel like my best self.’ ” arianaboussardreifel.comCharlotte Diamond

A Chloe Gosselin velvet mule.Photographed by Daniel Arnold
The designer in her studio.Photographed by Daniel Arnold

Chloe Gosselin
Las Vegas, Nevada

Growing up just outside Paris, shoe designer and former model Chloe Gosselin used drawing as her main form of self-expression. She soon discovered fashion and fell head over heels, sketching figures and garments and obsessing over runway collections from John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier. She eventually made her way to a fine arts–and–painting school in Belgium and, later, to FIT in New York, where she studied shoemaking. Today, Gosselin’s namesake label has become well known for its timeless, vintage-inspired designs. Eight months ago, she began working exclusively in Las Vegas, where she lives with her husband, the magician David Copperfield, and her daughter and two stepchildren. Though her life has shifted and changed, her love of design, no matter where she’s living, remains a constant. “Motherhood shaped my transition from modeling to designing,” she says. “I wanted to make something for myself that would last—and I wanted to make my daughter proud.” chloegosselin.comB.B.

The designer, at work in her studio.Photographed by Mary Sloane

Ataumbi Metals
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Though Kiowa jewelry designer Keri Ataumbi is from Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, she designs and creates in Santa Fe, where she has been based since 1990. “I live in the Cerrillos Hills, which have old turquoise mines in them,” she says. “Every time we’re blessed with rain, turquoise or tools like arrowheads come up out of the ground, and I’ve incorporated them into my jewelry.” Her work mixes precious materials, such as gemstones or diamonds, with such found natural materials—she’s also used porcupine claws and cast acorns for pieces, or transferred the pattern of leaves onto metal. The jeweler, who comes from a long line of artists, also mentors fellow makers in her community. “Those of us who know how to make something with our hands,” she says, “have a responsibility to teach the next generation how to do that.” ataumbi.comC.A.

A suite of Christy Dawn dresses at the Baskauskases’ home in Rustic Canyon. 

Photographed by James Branaman

Christy Dawn
Los Angeles, California

Christy Dawn Baskauskas and her husband, Aras Baskauskas, first turned to deadstock fabrics for their label, Christy Dawn, out of thrift: “The most cost-effective way was to start small and create limited pieces for our community and my friends,” Christy explains. Yet as they learned just how toxic traditional production methods could be, the pair resolved to lean fully green. Six years later, they’ve engaged farmers and artisans in southern India to grow, gin, weave, dye, and print regenerative long-staple cotton. Their prairie-style dresses, though, evoke vistas much closer to home: Christy was raised in pastoral Northern California, and it cast its spell. “Mother Nature is a huge influence,” she says. christydawn.comM.M.

Sandra and Jamie Okuma, both wearing their own handiwork.

Photo: Sharon Lockhart

A piece in progress.

Photo: Sharon Lockhart

Jamie and Sandra Okuma
Pauma Valley, California

Jamie Okuma may have followed in her mother Sandra’s footsteps as an artist, but the Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock duo create unique works that are completely different from one other. Sandra is a painter and beadwork artist; Jamie does beadwork, clothing, accessories, and even sculptures. “She has a different way of doing it than I do,” says Jamie of their beadwork. “Generally, we both reference Plateau and Great Basin design, but she’ll draw something out and really nail it down before she starts working it—I just can’t do that!” Sometimes, however, they will partner up on special pieces. “It’s compatible when we do put it together,” says Sandra.

Jamie and Sandra are both based on the La Jolla Indian Reservation in Pauma Valley, California. “There’s a deep history of our tribe and family here,” Jamie says. Sandra has lived on the reservation almost her whole life, and raised Jamie there, too. “When I was a kid, there was nothing here—we didn’t even have a car,” says Sandra. “But as a kid, it was heaven. There’s a feeling of security here.” Both artists draw from their reservation’s community and picturesque setting for their art. “Being in nature is the foundation of my work,” says Sandra. Jamie also finds pride in having never succumbed to the pressure to move to a bigger city. “I wouldn’t want to raise my kids anywhere else.” jokuma.comC.A.

Photo: Kari Rowe

Ginew’s Pendleton wool blankets, with a crest referencing both the Ojibwe and Oneida tribes.

Photo: Kari Rowe

Amanda Bruegl with Honuhōkūlaniokauna’oa Ninham Brodt, her daughter with Erik Brodt.

Photo: Kari Rowe

Ginew
Portland, Oregon

Ginew, an Indigenous denim line, is the passion project of Erik Brodt (Ojibwe) and Amanda Bruegl (Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee). By day, Bruegl is a gynecologic oncologist and Brodt a family physician, but in 2011 they launched Ginew with the intent of giving denim a Native American twist. “Indians make the best cowboys,” says Brodt. “We embody a huge portion of denim history, and it’s almost like we’ve been erased from it.” The couple both grew up in northern Wisconsin, but moved to Portland in 2015 for work. Living there has continued to influence their designs. “You have easy access to places that are truly isolated,” says Brodt. “You definitely feel like you’re part of the earth. The very first time you walk out onto the beach at the Pacific Ocean, there’s this overwhelming sense of how small you are. A lot of the denim we do, to me, looks like Lake Superior, too; it has really deep, eerie, cloud-colored blues at certain times.” ginewusa.comC.A.

The designer (center) with his wife, Brooke Ochoa-Nicholson, and their four young children.

Photographed by Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Kenneth Nicholson
Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles–based designer Kenneth Nicholson launched his label in 2016, following his service in the Navy. A true romantic who adores the process of creating, Nicholson is influenced by his physical location in an unexpected way. The pool blue pants and printed suits in his fall 2020 collection, for instance, feel extraordinarily Californian, while the corset-like top cut for a man belies Nicholson’s love for reworking fashion history. “When I spent time in the Navy, and when I had time to create, I found myself drawing from the inspiration of my environment—thinking about the water, the ships, the uniforms and the clean lines, the repetition,” Nicholson says. “I don’t know if it’s California per se [that I’m inspired by], as much as it is being an artist in a particular environment and drawing on the surroundings.” kennethnicholson.usSarah Spellings

“This house is located in Playa Saldamando, at a campground 13 kilometers north of Ensenada, Baja California,” says Tristan Detwiler (pictured). “[It’s a] beach break surf spot I found on a southbound coastal road trip in a search for perfect waves.”Photographed by Si Li

Stan
Encinitas, California

“If there’s good waves, I surf all morning, and if there’s no waves then I come back and I make clothes.” Twenty-three-year-old Tristan Detwiler has been riding out the pandemic at his parents’ place in Encinitas, California, sewing one-of-a-kind quilted jackets from found textiles in a converted garage. He launched his label, Stan, in 2019 while still at USC, where he studied design, competed on the surf team, and sewed patches on his frat brothers’ shirts. “I grew up just making, being free with my hands, open to anything—sculpting, fine art.” At 12, he and a skateboarding friend took up knitting. Vintage quilts are his medium now, because he appreciates the stories they tell. 

“What makes Stan different is you can feel that it was handmade and passed through a certain family,” Detwiler says. “It’s not just like a generic T-shirt. You feel like you’re a part of something and carrying on something.” stanlosangeles.comN.P.

Lauren Bucquet, working from her home in Las Vegas, where she has been temporarily settled since last year. 

Labucq
Los Angeles, California

When Lauren Bucquet decamped to Los Angeles with her husband, Adam, and their new baby, Norman, in 2017, after a decade in New York designing footwear and accessories for Rag & Bone, she found that distance from American fashion’s epicenter helped clarify what a label of her own could look like. “I’d always wanted to start a brand,” she says, “but I wanted to do it on my own terms.” In 2018 she launched Labucq, creating what she hadn’t yet seen in the direct-to-consumer marketplace: Accessibly priced shoes that were, yes, made in Italy, but had a distinct design sensibility, too. “It’s fashion and it’s contemporary and trend-driven, but it’s also something that you want to put on every day,” Bucquet says.

Made up of just four employees (including Bucquet and her husband), Labucq has been a decidedly DIY operation, made only scrappier by recent world events: Since last March, Bucquet and her family have been living in Las Vegas, where her parents had a house on the market. For the moment, however, she wouldn’t have things any other way. “I’m very, very remote,” she says. “But we’re managing just fine.” labucq.comM.M.

The designer.

Photographed by Gillian Garcia

Sophie Buhai
Los Angeles, California

“Beautiful and dark, elegant and tacky,” is how Sophie Buhai, a fifth-generation local, describes the spirit of Los Angeles. It’s the city’s history—specifically in the early 20th century—that inspires her namesake jewelry brand, which is designed and produced in L.A. and name-checks famous Angelenos like Maya Deren, Rudolph Schindler, and Anaïs Nin. Buhai’s greatest ambition is that her restrained, minimalist pieces will one day be as timeless and classic as the art made by those who inspired it. “The world doesn’t need any more stuff, so if we’re making something, let’s make it last,” she says, “with as little damage to the environment as possible.” sophiebuhai.comE.F.