In the U.S., New York is undoubtedly the fashion capital. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has typically been characterized as second-rate, the home of fast fashion, the Kardashians and Juicy Couture. However, there are quite a few designers that are making a name for the west coast. Johnson Hartig of Libertine, jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth, Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte (looks from their Spring 2014 collection pictured below), Andrea Lieberman of A.L.C., and even Hedi Slimane, in addition to a variety of emerging labels, make the pool of talent in Los Angeles one to watched and one to be valued. New York is, nonetheless, firmly planted as the center of fashion in the U.S. The most important stores are here (save for Maxfield in LA, A’Marees in Orange County and Ikram Goldman in Chicago – just to name a few). The largest grouping of notable designers is here. Hell, New York Fashion Week is here.
There is arguably something that stands in the way of the west coast, namely Los Angeles, emerging as a rival to New York, and it has nothing to do with the truly extraordinary design talent that resides there. In case you aren’t familiar with the geographic divide that exists in fashion law, here it is. Unlike much of the east coast: namely, New York (the home of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and various Made in NYC movements) and even DC (which the American Apparel and Footwear Association calls home), a largely anti-protectionist mindset dominates the industry in Los Angeles. It is not a coincidence that California is the home of the heavy hitters in fast fashion (think: Forever 21, Allen Schwartz, Nasty Gal, and other big businesses with lots of resources, many of which belong to the California Fashion Association). Hence, the major lobbying power behind such fast fashion and copying, and the opposition to design piracy prevention bills.
Luckily for most of the established Los Angeles-based brands, such as Libertine, Rodarte, and Irene Neuwirth, they are connected enough with New York fashion, to be the opposite side of the fence. The same goes for Slimane, who is quite obviously connected almost entirely to Paris, where entire designs are protected by law. So, while it seems that LA, as a whole, will remain a design piracy-friendly place, word to the emerging design brands that may not appreciate their originals designs being copied and hawked by fast fashion retailers: Design piracy is NOT a “rite of passage” despite what you may hear.