Melissa Magsaysay has established herself as the preeminent source for all things fashion-related on the West Coast. Formerly an editor at WWD, Magsaysay went on to take the reigns at the Los Angeles Times as their style editor, a position she held for five years. Now, she's released a new book titled City of Style: Exploring Los Angeles Fashion from Bohemian to Rock. We caught up with the one and only Magsaysay and found out why we need to put all those LA fashion stereotypes to rest.
What is the biggest misconception when it comes to Los Angeles and fashion?
That no one cares about high fashion or getting dressed up. Girls in LA care a lot about what they wear and what they look like. They pay attention to labels, designers and what's happening on the runway and with international street style. But, ultimately high fashion is expressed mostly through accessories and/or tempered by casual items from the contemporary market, so the end result is easy, effortless and a little messy.
What compelled you to put this book together?
I moved here from New York eight years ago specifically to cover the contemporary, denim and action sports markets for Women's Wear Daily. I was blown away by how influential the West Coast market was as a business and in fashion in general.
Through attending events and designer appointments on a regular basis, I've been given a front row seat to how girls out here put themselves together for day and night. I'm fascinated with how the high-end trends I see on New York runways are translated the next season by girls in LA. They follow fashion, but push it through an LA filter so that it's not as perfectly put together and precise as it was when it went down a runway or was shot in a magazine. There are nuances about the LA girl that I found interesting. I wanted to create something that captured what I was seeing and what I think LA style is about. LA isn't about runways and couture and trying to make it feel like Milan or Paris. I realized that there is so much right in front of our faces—looks and styles that started here and have influenced the rest of the world. It felt like something to explore, report and celebrate.
In your book, City Of Style, you highlight different realms of style—everything from "romantic bohemian" to "indie-eclectic." If you had to associate yourself with one, which would it be and why?
I'm pretty preppy and traditional, but have certainly adopted a West Coast sensibility over the past few years. I'd say I was "casual chic." I pay attention to trends, but translate them to fit my personality, mood and lifestyle. But, I'm also a little "indie-eclectic" because I love vintage and vintage-inspired pieces. I also grew up around a lot of skaters and still wear Vans and other skate/surf brands.
What was your biggest challenge about putting this book together?
It was time. Not only because I was working full-time at the Los Angeles Times, but once I got going on my reporting, I found that there were so many amazing people with wonderful stories who would have all been a great addition to this book. I didn't want to stop interviewing people, because every person had something great to say about their place in LA style.
For example, I interviewed Slash who told me about the early days of Guns & Roses and where he got the top hat with the conch shell band. Stacy Peralta talked about surfing in Santa Monica in the 70s and the unofficial dress code at Venice high school. Tony Hawk talked about that Gleaming the Cube hair cut and Rick Owens shared his journey from LA to Paris and his own interpretation of the sunny city. I wanted to provide a snapshot of history to put the origins of these styles in a real context, told by people who were there and have gone on to be style icons in their own right.
Who are some of your favorite LA-based designers? Why?
I love Gregory Parkinson for his amazing prints and gorgeous use of color, Corey Lynn Calter for her whimsical and wearable approach to design, Jasmine Shokrian for her thoughtful and intellectual take on fashion, Sunjoo Moon for her beautiful blend of Parisian chic and California cool and Annie Costello Brown for her textural and sculptural accessories that make a statement without being to precious or fussy.