A Dress With a History

 

My Wedding Dress

 

I am moving house. In the fit of packing, sorting and the general cleansing that inevitably goes along with a move, I find myself standing in a pair of boyfriend jeans and a tank top with the eye of a slightly crazed woman on a mission... and then I come across my beloved wedding dress.

 

It is a beautiful, cream Giambattista Valli looking at me from inside the spare room closet and it seems to be saying -- "Oh, so now you are finally paying attention to me!"

 

What does one do with something like that during a giant spring clean, which comes hand in hand with a move and a new life, which collides head on with your old life. As much as I loved this dress I actually was not sentimentally attached, maybe for obvious reasons.

 

But then there was the nagging question... "What about my daughter, should I save it for her?" Reality kicked in. Surely no self-respecting daughter wears her mother's wedding dress 20-30 years after the thing has been hanging around in a preservation box. The idea is nice, but not terribly realistic.

 

So off to Decades Two I go -- I am met by the lovely, smiling Christos, and, as he takes my dress in hand, it slowly comes back to him. He tells me he remembers me now: "Ahh, that's right, this dress was for your wedding... so how is everything?" I smile and mouth to him silently the word divorce.

 

At Ease 

 

Susie Crippen’s rustic Hancock Park abode is a welcome expression of the fashion designer’s singular take on California casual.

 

When Susie Crippen, the co-founder and former creative director of J Brand jeans, now creative director of Crippen, stepped into her Hancock Park house for the first time, she instantly knew she was home.

 

“Get ready to fall in love!” warned the realtor, as she opened the front door of thesecluded, turnkey, 1913 bungalow set back from the street, surrounded and hidden by groves of bamboo. Crippen was immediately attracted to the open floor plan, exposed wood beam ceilings and the light and airy feel (the house was remodeled in the 1980s). She was also struck by the small-town vibe of the Hancock Park neighborhood with its old-fashioned, wide, tree-lined streets, strolling couples and plenty of kids on bikes.

 

Crippen moved in in 2008 and set about making the house her own with the help of her good friend of more than 15 years, design consultant Channon Roe of In the Field Interiors. The two had a mutual friend, and actually lived across the street from each other when they first met. A man of many hats (surfer, actor, designer), Roe, a native Californian, was always keenly interested in interior design. He worked for family friend and famed designer Michael S. Smith in his early days in Los Angeles.

 

At first Roe was hired just to remodel the downstairs powder room, which really served as a barometer for their compatibility in taking on the house in its entirety. It was a success and from there they set their goals: to instill complete calmness into the house, making it comfortable, livable, workable and an unpretentious place to live.

 

“Working with Channon opened my eyes to a whole other level of creativity,” Crippen explains. “Designing clothes is an expression of my aesthetic, pure and simple, which is very similar to the way [we collaborated].”

 

Roe’s unique approach of steering away from any one specific style reads both eclectic and cohesive. Drawing from his early influence of California beach life, he tends to incorporate his favorite iconic time periods in design, namely the ’60s and ’70s. He says, “Mixing the high design and functionality of these midcentury modern pieces with some much older European elements, the house begins to take shape and a great story can be told.”

 

Roe also incorporated natural, earthy elements: cowhides, antlers, leather, weathered metal and plenty of wood. He included Crippen’s lucky number four (the day she was born)throughout the house. He also loves the element of surprise: In her sunroom, he presented her with a sofa by Brazilian designer Percival Lafer as a fait accompli. Crippen was shocked and reluctant at first, but now she admits that it is her favorite thing in the entire house other than her two dogs. Crippen, wearing her favorite, vintage Levi’s, and gray cashmere sweater by Soyer says: “This project was about bringing my taste to life. This house really does look and feel like me!”

 

These days she is hard at work, collaborating with her design team on her new line. Meetings take place at the dining room table, and even the back deck and front porch are jokingly dubbed “conference rooms.” The garage has been turned into the Crippen office/design studio. The house, in its inspiring, tranquil splendor, has actually come to represent all things Crippen—reflecting the clothes she makes and how she lives.

 

“Good design starts with a conversation, and ends as a physical manifestation of that conversation,” says Crippen. “It’s a fascinating process, living in a space and watching it come alive around me. I get to live and work in beautiful surroundings. I am so appreciative of that.”

 

Written by Amelia Fleetwood.
Photographed by Paul Raeside.

East Meets West

 

“Build it and they will come,” Bianca Roe says with her fine Aussie twang and a twinkle in her eye. She speaks of her and husband Channon’s latest endeavor—In the Field, a lifestyle store in Ojai. Three years ago, the Roes came to raise their family far from the hub of Los Angeles. They were attracted by the natural beauty, convinced it acts as an incubator for creativity to the cross pollination of people that make up their beloved town. “Ojai is full of brilliant, progressive locals with innovative ideas,” says Bianca. “Opening this store is a way to share all that inspires us” in a community that is going through an undeniable renaissance.

 

  Drawing on the visuals from a road trip to the Southwest this summer, Channon wanted the interior—with its stark, paired-down, monastic sparseness—to embody the raw beauty of that region. The Roes opted for a gallery feel, keeping it simple so the white walls could act as perfect hosts to showcase their eclectic inventory.

 

Embodying the couple’s passion for travel, art, and design, the store (also a base camp for Channon’s interior design company, Channon Roe Maison + Design, inthefieldinteriors.com) mixes clothing for men, women, and children by labels such as Mr. Freedom, Imogen + Willie, and Foyer; an apothecary; surf ware; fine art; carefully curated selections of vintage clothing and furniture; as well as a selection of utilitarian tools. Many of the brands they carry are tried and tested. “If I can build our entire house and go through construction with my Mr. Freedom jeans and have them look even better than when I started, we’re on to something,” says Channon. “Our goal is to create a space that will continue to evolve, grow, and give back to the community we love.”

 

Finer THINGS In Life

Erin Wasson is a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll. But the selfproclaimed tomboy beauty fits into no mold. The Texas-born supermodel, designer, collaborator, and creator of her namesake jewelry line, Wasson Fine, explains the attraction

to her newfound home in Ojai

A love affair that started off as an innocent camping trip turned full-on when Erin Wasson bought an

older Spanish cottage in the heart of Ojai. “I’m a Texas girl. I like big, open spaces and nature. I was missing that feeling of community that you most definitely get living in a small town. I moved to Ojai a year ago,” she says, smiling, “and it has changed me. I have a place to grow my ideas. Ojai affects how I live and work and the way that I design. It has allowed me the space to create.

“At the end of the day, I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl. But add on the extra touches of a good handbag,

shoes, and some jewelry, and you have the whole package,” says Wasson. “It’s the nuance of accessories

that tells the story of who the woman really is. I am consistently drawn to that.”

Creativity has always been Wasson’s driving force. She credits her design endeavors with maintaining her stamina in the modeling world. “I came up in the industry when models were to be seen and not heard. I confused lot of people,” she laughs. “I came out of the gate very opinionated, with a lot to say. I have a voice.” Accessing and acting on her creativity helped Wasson blur the lines drawn for the models of her time.

Not content to work solely as a model, about 10 years ago, Wasson got a chance to branch out when her

friend, designer Alexander Wang, asked her to create the jewelry for his runway show. “I started making

these diamond body chains,” she says. “That was the inception of Low Luv, my costume jewelry company.”

Low Luv became a successful brand and served as Wasson’s training ground, teaching her the basics of

production, manufacturing, and sales. It helped her to understand what it takes to have a product on the

market. “After seven years of doing costume jewelry, I evolved,” she says. “I wanted to get back to the intention of what making jewelry represents for me: to create something that was less disposable and trend driven, with a sense of permanence and longevity attached to it.”

Today, Wasson has returned to what she loves about jewelry—working with gold, silver, and stones—

through Wasson Fine and rediscovering the romance of working with elements that have staying power. “I am making jewelry that inspires me—wearable pieces that dance a fine line between femininity and edginess,” she says. ”It’s a reflection of who I am.”

Living part-time in Ojai helps Wasson achieve the perfect mind-set for inspiration: “I always say, ‘The

second I turn on to the 33 freeway, my whole life changes.’ I joke with friends that I can literally feel

the cells in my body cooling out and suddenly, I can breathe again!

Style

 

For the past year, LAWREN HOWELL, contributing 

freelance editor for Vogue, has claimed the ever-evolving small town of Ojai—a community she finds captivating and full of surprises—as home for herself and her family (husband Kristopher Moller and kids Louisa and Peter). “Ojai has a great beauty that is inspiring on a daily basis,” she says. “It also seems to attract a lot of people with independent and adventurous spirits, and we love that!” 

HOW HAS A MOVE TO THE COUNTRY INFORMED YOUR STYLE? I definitely have to say that my day-to-day dressing has changed since moving to Ojai. Part of good style is being appropriate, so I’m not wearing here what I would wear in Paris. I like to juxtapose masculine with feminine, old and new, rough and soft in the way I dress, and I’m really aware of balancing textures and proportions. For example, if I wear a bohemian top, I will balance it with a tailored pant or skirt.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WEST COAST FASHION? I think that people often mistake California style for being just a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, but in recent years that has been proven not to be the case. The West Coast is full of 

Rodarte, DOEN, Sacai, the punkish brand Libertine, and The Elder Statesman for that California-luxe surf-culture look. West Coast fashion feels like a creative frontier; most of the companies are independently owned and more free to do what they want. They are complete originals and not afraid to cross-pollinate into other art forms. I find them to be really inspiring 

ENDURING APPEAL

With her signature minimalistic aesthetic and laid-back style, designer Jesse Kamm is quietly becoming L.A.’s reigning queen of slow fashion.

CLOTHING DESIGNER JESSE KAMM stands proudly at the doorway of a 1930s Highland Park house, which she recently converted into her studio, and welcomes me in. The space is uplifting in its simplicity, flooded with light and curated with perfectly placed found objects—stacked rocks from distant shores, a snake skull, hats collected during her frequent travels—and wood furnishings built by her husband, Lucas Brower, who serves as the chief of operations at her fashion label. “This is the first time ever that the Jesse Kamm headquarters are not in our home,” she explains excitedly. “It feels like we are real grownups now driving down the hill to work.”

Kamm got her start in the fashion world in front of the lens, but never felt totally comfortable there. “When I was modeling, I always wanted to be the one picking out the clothes, instead,” says the blond-haired, fair-eyed natural beauty. Eventually, she got her wish. Kamm was living in Los Angeles, juggling three jobs (nanny, waitress and retail) when she decided to learn how to sew. She quickly excelled, and soon stylists were borrowing her creations, simple silhouettes with hand-printed drawings of desert flora and fauna.

Kamm launched her eponymous clothing line in 2005 with a little help from her friends: stylist Patrik Milani, who secured Kamm’s first order from prestigious Parisian store, Collette, and fellow designer Jeremy Scott, who gave Kamm practical advice about who to hire as a patternmaker and a sewer to help her to expand. “I worked 16 hours a day for the first two years,” she explains. “It was a lot, but creating gave me such a deep sense of calm and purpose.”

A Midwestern work ethic (she grew up in rural Illinois) and an inspired childhood are what Kamm credits for her success. “I did not come from a fashion background, but the creative part was easy because I grew up with artistic parents who raised me to work with my hands, creating and thinking about things in an aesthetic manner,” she says.

As things fell into place, Kamm designed what would become her cult classic: Kamm Pants, high-waisted, wide-legged trousers made from a fine cotton canvas, introduced in 2013 and worn by everyone from Rihanna to Michelle Williams. “My clothes make me feel good about myself,” Kamm explains. “I create them to be long-lasting and utilitarian. I need to be able to go to work, get dirty, but then brush off and look presentable too.”

Kamm rejects the idea of fast fashion and changing trends. “Everyone in the modern era builds a quit date into their product, but I have no planned obsolescence,” she says. “Jesse Kamm is built to last.” Still, the designer continues to evolve. Kamm’s spring collection hits stores in mid-February and is an ode to the Midwestern working man and woman. “I have huge compassion for the people of my homeland, my friends and family,” she says. “They’re honest, kind, hard-working people. I wanted to honor them.”

Inspired by Kamm’s grandfather, who owned a filling station and “always wore a union blue shirt with his name tag on it,” the latest collection is built around Japanese crushed cottons, linens, rayons, organic cotton/Tencel blends and canvases offered in a range of colors, such as union blues, salt white, tobacco, indigo and clay. Kamm is most excited about the overalls, which were guided by the farmers she remembers from her childhood. Utilitarian-style work shirts and the Ranger Pant, a new variation of the Kamm Pant with a slim leg, round out the offerings.

 

A big believer in keeping her work life manageable, Kamm’s ethos, “Freedom is wealth,” ensures that she keeps her business small. She is only sold in about 25 high-end boutiques around the world, including Mohawk General Store in L.A. and In the Field in Ojai, while her online store remains stocked with things people can get year-round. She also shuts down her company for three months every year. Her husband and her son escape to their home in Panama where they surf and embrace nature, allowing Kamm to clear the canvas in quiet reflection, so new inspiration can find her.

© 2017 Amelia Fleetwood.  Ojai, California 

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