Five Los Angeles men’s streetwear labels leading the laid-back trend
- Los Angeles men’s streetwear is giving New York fashion a run for its money with its casual looks
- The city’s climate allows for a year-round style and its culture revolves around music, surf and skating
New York has long been considered a hotbed for men’s streetwear thanks to landmark brands such as Supreme and the now defunct Hood By Air. Los Angeles, however, has caught up fast and is the new epicentre for casual wear with a difference.
“You could argue that although streetwear might have been born in the streets of downtown NYC, it went through puberty and came into its own in LA,” says retail legend Chris Gibbs, founder of influential streetwear destination Union.
“I think a couple factors are key to this. First, Los Angeles rents are more affordable and give a new brand the chance to open its own stores and operations and showcase an undiluted vision of its world. Also, when you think casual, you immediately think of the west coast. This style really thrives in Los Angeles all year round,” he says.
For many years Los Angeles was considered the go-to place for denim and casual wear and gave birth to iconic labels such as 7 For All Mankind, James Perse and American Apparel. An abundance of factories meant that everything was manufactured locally, from the dyeing and washing to production. About six years ago, the fashion industry took a new turn.
“Los Angeles was brought into the spotlight once again, after Hedi Slimane took the helm of Saint Laurent and designed collections that drew inspiration from the west coast. A combination of innovative stores that brought new points of view to the retail scene, and the emergence of new brands that speak to the youth further established the city as a streetwear capital,” says Kelly Wong, fashion director at Lane Crawford.
It wasn’t long before streetwear-focused retailers from Stone Island to KITH set up shop in the city (Dover Street Market has just opened). This, coupled with a vibrant arts scene and underground music culture, has resulted in a growing number of men’s brands that embody a carefree attitude while showcasing vintage materials and handicraft details.
“The mentality behind these brands is fundamentally different [from New York], and the two cities’ lifestyles are galaxies apart. The fast-paced New Yorkers always need to be dressed for different occasions and places at the same day, whereas LA separates that more clearly,” says Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter.
“The music, skate and surf culture, as well as the climate separates the two. The laid-back luxury of LA that combines the music, culture and lifestyle of the city is something brands from other places cannot replicate,” Firth says.
Alex Zhu, merchandising manager at I.T, highlights brands such as Fear of God and Amiri, as the ones to own thanks to their cult following with celebrities like Kanye West and Justin Bieber.
Gibbs points out Online Ceramics, which was founded by two Grateful Dead fans, and Camp High, which is taking laid-back style to a whole new level with high-end knitted goods.
“The look is laid-back, effortless and casual; basically for everyday wear. The differences are the small details which elevate the garment, like the side zips (Fear of God) or arm patches (424). These make them fresh to the market with personality, but still good for day-to-day wear,” Zhu says.
Rhude was catapulted to fame when Kendrick Lamar was spotted wearing one of its bandana-print T-shirts and is now a firm favourite with rappers including Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky. Founded in 2012 by Manila native Mr Rhuigi Villaseñor, the curated line is easy to style while looking cool and casual.
Drawing from grunge, hip-hop and punk influences, must-haves include luxe basics such as washed out graphic T-shirts, the traxedo (a hybrid tuxedo and track pants) and Hawaiian shirts.
Available at mrporter.com
Designer Don C was Kanye West’s right-hand man before he launched a luxury sportswear brand in 2011. The label initially focused on reinventing classic basketball designs with exclusive materials and even collaborated with the likes of Jordan and Readymade. Last season saw the launch of the first comprehensive ready-to-wear collection featuring classic camouflage and jungle motifs, Hawaiian prints with sport references and utility outerwear.
Available at lanecrawford.com
Guatemalan-born Guillermo Andrade started out as the brains behind popular Los Angeles concept store FourTwoFour on Fairfax, before launching his own line in 2015. Staples such as T-shirts and denim jackets are emblazoned with provocative messages that highlight social and political issues. It also ticks fashion boxes with details including bold screen prints, and the brand’s signature red armband.
Available at ithk.com
Mike Amiri is considered a legend in streetwear circles, having transformed this small label he founded in his basement into a multimillion-dollar business. Made and customised in his downtown atelier, the brand’s California rock’n’roll meets haute couture vibe has created a new category of luxe streetwear. Highlights include his signature destroyed denim and leather jackets, and shotgun cashmere pieces (which he customises by shooting holes through them with a gun).
Available at mrporter.com
After years of selling the coolest streetwear brands, this edgy retailer finally launched its own collection late last year. Produced using Japanese fabric, but made in Los Angeles, the brand rehashes classic American work wear staples, deconstructing and reinterpreting them with Afrocentric iconography. The latest collection includes mechanics’ jackets, military shirts and work pants in oversized, boxy fits and emblazoned with custom patches.
Available at unionlosangeles.com