by William Buckley
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At a recent industry dinner, an editor from a major fashion magazine and I were discussing the recent increase in the number of people moving from New York to California. Specifically, we were discussing an Instagram meme that said “You’re not a real New Yorker until you’ve moved to LA.” Funny. “But LA does seem to be having a moment right now,” I said. To which the editor replied as she rolled her eyes, “Oh honey, LA is always having a moment,” at which point she drifted off in the direction of a passed plate of hors d’oeuvres.

But at least in menswear, there is definitely something happening there. Brands like John Elliott and Stampd are both gaining a wider share of the limelight, and the collections are going from strong to stronger. In fact, both those brands showed their spring/summer ’17 collections at New York Fashion Week: Men’s in July and both were among the most lauded by those in attendance. Why? Conceptually, California lends itself well to the ongoing “casualization of menswear”. Moreover, for a contemporary customer increasingly concerned with both style and comfort, a more laidback attitude is clearly reflected in these LA brands.

“LA-based labels like John Elliott and Fear of God seem to place a very specific focus on production and have access to some terrific local factories, especially those using fleece and denim,” says Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s fashion director Bruce Pask. “There is an incredible care and attention to detail, to the nuances in garments that result from this very close relationship, and I do think that this current athleisure/athluxury trend has given the west coast designers a great platform because their lifestyles are so representative of that casual state of mind. The design process for them seems intuitive, almost innate because they are quite simply living it. Also, many of the west coast brands have mindfully cultivated a loyal fan base through astute and savvy social media usage. Their connections to the customer seem very personal to them and, importantly, it’s mutual.”

“LA is having a moment, and I don’t see it fading anytime soon,” adds Reece Crisp, menswear buyer at Farfetch. “The emergence of brands such as 424, Amiri, Blackfist, Fear of God and John Elliott are all making waves largely because of the designers and the way that they have marketed themselves. Guillermo, Mike, Bradley, Jerry, and John have opened themselves up to their fans, making their brands more than just clothes, but a movement, and a lifestyle.”

Christopher Fisher, branded menswear buyer for men’s online retailer Oki-Ni, agrees. “The laid-back feel and look of California designers have come to embody a contemporary lifestyle. For example, slouchy oversized jersey done in a luxury way really emerged in Californian collections, and has influenced everyone from Vetements to Kanye West’s Yeezy line. A continuation of this trend with a refined, more structured style was seen in John Elliott’s show and newcomers like Rochambeau, Chapter and GHSTS are all embracing this laid-back feel with a technical elevation. The movement is just getting started.”