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StyleSaint's Allison Beal on Disrupting the Market, LA Haunts

StyleSaint founder and designer Allison Beal, right. Image via StyleSaint
StyleSaint founder and designer Allison Beal, right. Image via StyleSaint

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StyleSaint isn't your average shopping site. Part Pinterest and part content creator, the website is both an online magazine and a fashion community where members collect and share their favorite images from around the web. But here's the kicker: members' style dreams become reality when a real-life collection is designed (every six weeks, no less) based on users' own inspirational lookbooks, making each piece the ultimate collab with StyleSaint's "Society."

Behind it all is edgy entrepreneur Allison Beal, whose family has deep roots in fashion. Her great-grandmother dressed Paris' royalty before opening her own atelier here in LA and in Buenos Aires, and naturally, that talent trickled down to the brainy Beal. (Surprised much?) We sat down with the Venice-based powerhouse—whose own style is a mix of femme fatale Veronica Lake with '70s-era Michelle Pfeifer à la Scarface—to talk about StyleSaint's "disruptive" model, how she's creating high-end clothing at affordable prices, her favorite places in LA and more.

For those who aren't yet familiar, can you describe StyleSaint?
"StyleSaint is a community-inspired luxury apparel brand committed to artisanal craftsmanship, local production and disruptive pricing. We believe in the humanity behind products, so with the StyleSaint community as our inspiration board and muse, we design everything in-house and produce it locally and ethically using the same factories as labels like Maison Martin Margiela, A.L.C., and Rag & Bone. Because we sell directly to our consumer, we've eliminated the need for retail markups and are able to sell our high-quality, handmade products at one-third of the price consumers would normally pay for them. "

What sparked the idea for StyleSaint?
"I've always had a strong belief that all creation is co-creation, and my friends have been the sounding board/focus group for everything I've ever designed. That collaborative spirit fueled my passion for creating community first and foremost at StyleSaint. I would then hook those same friends up with insider, wholesale pricing on the items they inspired. Seeing how excited they were to own the clothing they had served as the muse for—and that they couldn't normally afford at retail—really lit the light bulb for me. I dreamt of being able to scale that experience, so when I saw the cultural tide start to turn back towards an appreciation for locally and artisanally-made products, I knew it was time to make the move from accruing global inspiration on the website to transforming that inspiration into our first collection."

And what inspired you to keep manufacturing local? (Which we totally love!)
"I want to know the people who make the clothing I design. Our production facilities are in Downtown and our corporate office is in Venice, and even that seems like a stretch in terms of distance! I'm in constant contact with the people who cut, sew and produce the collection.

Beyond that, though, I really do believe that consumers are starting to make conscientious purchases based on knowledge of the where/when/who/why behind their products. As a society, we're moving away from mass, faceless production and consumption cycles and back to a more humanity-based consumerism."

How do you decide what stylebook looks ultimately become real, live designs?
"It's the most amazing thing to log in every morning and have thousands of girls sharing the things that inspire them. It's a dynamic and ever-changing peek into people's minds and acts as our collaborative inspiration board for the StyleSaint Collection. I start by combing through the Tear Sheets that are most-loved within our community.

I take my inspiration from the stories being told there, and then I ask myself three questions: 1) What can we do better than labels bound by retail markups? Meaning, can we create the garment in a fabric that would normally make it aspirational-only for our community? A silk maxi dress, for example, would cost upwards of 3x what we're able to sell them for. 2) Does the item fit in the core of a girl's closet? I'm trying to create pieces that are more classic than trend-based, so that they'll forever remain in your closet. 3) Will the item work on a real woman's body?

Our community may love a certain photo to death, but the actual clothing pictured only looks good because it's on a six-foot-tall model with a 24-inch waist. I want to take the inspiration from that look and create something that flatters everybody."

What has been your favorite piece you've created so far?
"Hard to say! I'm partial to the Sophie Shell in Silk Mosaic and the Scallop Skirt in Silk Mosaic as an ensemble because I love the juxtaposition of a bohemian print with a structured silhouette. But I'm also obsessed with the Saint Society jacket—it's the first army jacket I've ever owned that doesn't make me look boxy or shapeless. I worked really hard to design it that way, we did nine fittings on that jacket to perfect it."

Where are your favorite places to shop, eat, drink and play in LA?
"My favorite places to shop: Deus Ex Machina, Downtown Flower Mart, Pearl Drop Boutique, Nightcap Boutique, and the Fretted Frog.

Favorite places to eat: Local 1205 for breakfast, Blossom Vietnamese for lunch, Angelini Osteria for dinner.

Favorite places to drink: Villains Tavern, 7 Grand and The Edison.

Favorite places to play: The Hollywood Bowl during the summer, El Matador State Park for relaxation, and Charmlee Wilderness Park for nature."

What are you plans for StyleSaint's future?
"We'll continue to grow our collection as well as expand into leather, accessories and footwear. A mobile app is in the works as well as a few creative collaborations. The future is so exciting!"
· StyleSaint [Official Site]
· Is LA the Next Silicon Valley for the Fashion World? [Racked]