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Agents of Change
Michelle Bergmann, Melissa Magsaysay and Elizabeth Varnell | Photo: Andrew Stiles | February 19, 2013
Four L.A. designers draw inspiration from the wilds of Laurel Canyon, the manicured neighborhoods of Hancock Park and the beach flats of Santa Monica.
Emily Factor is Hollywood royalty—her great-grandfather is the legendary makeup master Max Factor, her mother is painter Gail Factor and her brothers are Smashbox co-founders Dean and Davis Factor—but the fashion designer finds herself drawn more to nature than to Tinseltown glitz. The 33-year-old Laurel Canyon resident was born in L.A. and studied fine art at California College of the Arts in San Francisco and textile design at Central Saint Martins in London, where she apprenticed with Zandra Rhodes before launching her own label in 2011 (emilyfactor.com). The flora and fauna found on the hill in Factor’s backyard and the play of light and shadow in the canyon inspire her collections. “Combining nature’s colors, patterns and textures help achieve a multidimensional, harmonious balance,” she says. Her sharply tailored spring designs are based on multitonal color palettes and bring to mind intricate Roman mosaic patterns. “For spring, I created ceramic tiles, then made those into digital images that became prints. Then I looked at how the textures would form to the body,” she says. “I almost did it in a way you would make a mosaic on the wall. I create the print first and think about the print becoming part of the piece.”
Susie Crippen prefers fashion that’s simple and to the point. As the co-founder and creative mastermind behind J Brand, she outfitted millions of women in clean, understated and logo-free denim. She left the company three years ago, but the 49-year-old, who was raised in Weston, Conn., returns to the fashion fray this spring with Crippen, a line of simple looks for self-assured dressing (savannahsantamonica.com, shopheist.com). “I wanted to make clothes for women who don’t aspire to be 19. I wanted to have a line and collection that lasts forever,” says Crippen, who spent her hiatus traveling to gather creative inspiration, as well as decorating her Hancock Park home with interior designer Channon Roe. It’s no surprise that her interior design sensibilities echo her unassuming approach to fashion. “I didn’t want the art or décor of my home to overwhelm the people in it, because the people are the most powerful thing,” she says. “And there’s no way the clothing I make is going to be more powerful than the person wearing it.” True to her word, Crippen’s tunics, caftans, jackets and trousers are malleable and even pack up nicely. “I travel a lot and have a minimalistic approach,” she says. “I want to take seven pieces from my wardrobe and two pairs of shoes and be ready for anything.”
Robert Keith and Kether Parker
One look inside the Santa Monica design studio of Hoorsenbuhs’ Robert Keith and Kether Parker provides a clear perspective on the business partners’ clean aesthetic. A white surfboard leans against white walls near vitrines with soldered chain-link legs. The room at once references the guys’ California-centric sensibilities and the jewelry line’s crisp mark (three links also symbolize the “H” in Hoorsenbuhs, a Dutch merchant trading ship sailed by Keith’s ancestors). “You can recognize our stuff from across the room,” Keith says. Forty-year-old Parker, the brand’s ambassador, met Keith, its 43-year-old founder and designer, almost 25 years ago in Topanga Beach. At the time, Parker was finishing high school in Santa Monica, soon to begin modeling, while Keith, who grew up in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, was working as a photographer, styling his own shoots. Years later, the two began working together after Keith famously sold his first ring hours after he made it—to a woman carrying a Birkin bag—while in line at a Southland coffee shop in 2007. Now there’s a Hoorsenbuhs and Newbark shoe collaboration afoot (justoneeye.com) and a collection of bridal rings and stud earrings in partnership with Forevermark diamonds, certified by the Kimberley Process. Referring to the new designs Keith continues to create, Parker says, “It takes a deeper discipline to see a form and make shapes from it.”