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L.A. native Brian Lee, try as he might, couldn’t stay away form California. He attended school in New York, moved to Hong Kong for a spell, then Amsterdam for 3 1/2 years, before finally returning home to open Milkmade. “The good thing about traveling abroad is coming back and bringing all the things you see out there, the influences, especially in terms of style, bringing it back here and applying it to the lens,” he says. His repatriation has been channeled into an assorted collection of international brands like Kobo, Dear Creatures, Stori, Wuquyu, and Killikili, while his use of merchandising with trunks and vintage cameras subtly hint of a returned world traveler’s reminiscence. Although he journeys to Japan twice a year to scout new brands, we’re quite pleased he’s planted some roots in Venice.
Why this store, here on Abbot Kinney?
I think it's one of the only places in L.A. where you have the residential neighborhood community surrounding a main street of retail, so it lends itself a vibe or atmosphere that is very communal and neighborly. And I think people associate Venice and Abbot Kinney with creativity and culture on the Westside. I think people will always be attracted to this area for those reasons.
What are you most excited about in-store right now that maybe isn't flying off the racks?
The Spindle and Canister cashmere sweaters, because we just got them in. The Vael shoes and bags we just got in, too. I definitely think they are going to be a hit this coming weekend because the big Abbot Kinney Holiday Extravaganza on Friday and Saturday.
You have $100 to shop anywhere in LA—where do you go?
I'm a huge fan of food. I'd probably go down the street to AK. They have Swedish meatballs and sweet potato gnocchi. Absolutely delicious.
Make that $1,000.
I'd stick on this street. The store across the street has this one stool I been eying, it's like a French sewing stool. And I'm a huge gadget guy, so maybe the Apple store.
What's your favorite gadget?
My iPhone. I know that's really lame and standard but I can't get myself off of that.
Why do you think Middle America dresses so bad?
I think for the most part, people in the Midwest are divorced from the entertainment industry and fashion industry—all the industries where outward appearance says something about you, or the industries where someone can distinguish what a person does or the lifestyle they lead based on clothing. I don't think it's a priority, especially the way people in L.A. and New York think about clothing. People have so many other things to worry about; I don't think buying the latest pair of shoes is on everyone's mind.
Whose wardrobe would you burn?
Larry King. He's been wearing the same thing for how many decades?
Whose wardrobe do you emulate?
My style combines different things, although my grandfather was pretty pimp.