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AGAIN's Adorable DTLA Studio is Retro-Heavy, Dog-Friendly

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Photos by Elizabeth Daniels

Stepping into AGAIN's Downtown Los Angeles digs is like stepping into some kind of crazy-stylish time capsule. Just like the local label's creative collections, the studio has true cinematic flair, offering a cool '60s vibe that provides the perfect balance of playful quirk and ladylike sophistication.

After meeting her dream team that includes three well-dressed babes and three incredibly polite, ready-to-pose pups, we sat down with founder Amber Kekich-Purling to hear her thoughts on taking risks (do it), celebs (meh) and Venice (the best).

What were you like growing up?
"I was a strange dresser. I'm from Colorado, so it's not hard to stand out because everyone is wearing Etnies, Vans and The North Face. It's more about function over fashion there. Growing up, my mom said that I would wear this green dress with green pearls for two weeks straight and then I'd switch to something different. I was a black cat every Halloween for the first twelve years. In high school, I use to match my nail polish to my socks, skirt and eyeshadow. My parents completely supported my ways and loved it."

When did you first start dabbling in design?
"When I was 12, I started this thing called 'Amber's Clothes Designing Journal' but I didn't really know that fashion design was a job and you could call it a career. I made my prom dress, which was interesting. It was camouflage and pink silk. I couldn't find a camouflage fabric so I used an army tarp—it was so funny. My mom always hand-sewed everything, so she got me a sewing machine to make my prom dress and I was literally just pulling stuff through—I thought that's how you did it! I didn't learn how to formerly sew until I went to school."

Where did you go to school?
"I went to FIDM—they teach you everything there. They taught me that, to create a line, you don't really have to do everything by yourself, but you need to be good at construction. I was going to run track in school, but really wanted to be in fashion. In Colorado I found a teeny-tiny flyer for FIDM and announced to my mom, 'I'm going there and moving to California.' I'm very instinctual like that. My mom was like, 'No, you're going to go to a four-year university and run track on a scholarship.' I was like, 'No, I'm moving to Cali and going to fashion school and getting a two-year associates degree.' So, that's what I did. My mom dropped me off out here, stayed for two days, and I've been living here ever since."

Where did you get your official start in the industry?
"I was working with a denim company called Monarchy. They really didn't have a women's line so they gave it to me and my friend and said we can do what we want. We were 20 and 21 years old at the time, so it was pretty cool. After that, I worked for Rock & Republic, but realized that I didn't want to be in denim anymore. The only place I thought I wanted to work at was The Row. I knew where their offices were, so I dropped off my application there every day."

How did you start AGAIN?
"I met a friend that wanted to start a company, so I quit my job and we launched our line in the fall of 2011. She's no longer a part of it anymore. We didn't have a name for a long time, but I love vintage and I have a whole theory on time, so we were like let's just call it AGAIN. We're in a really weird time in fashion right now, where you can buy something similar at H&M and Zara, but none of that stuff lasts forever. My concept with AGAIN is, I'm opening up by grandmother's closet and she has all this cool, unique stuff in it, so I'm going to wear it all...again."

We see what you did there! What makes AGAIN so unique?
"We get a lot of attention because we're really different. We've taken things slow and pushed the edges, and we've heard 'No' a lot. It's hard sometimes because you watch these girls making silk maxis and they're blowing up overnight. It's just a bunch of silk maxis or, like, T-shirts that say funny things; they're not doing what they want to be doing. But us, we've continued doing what we've always wanted to do. That's why we get editorials. There are not a lot of 'collections' in Los Angeles—it's more like quick basics. We didn't fall into the trend of the sloppy '90s raver; we've always been the model-off-duty woman. Everyone comes to us when they need a look for a nice event or they want to actually look like a human being."

Has AGAIN been featured in any recent editorials?
"Yes! We were in Galore magazine's September issue last month year. Famed fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth shot Dominican model Omahyra in some of our looks. It was really great because all of our friends were in that issue as well. That's the kind of stuff I like: when other people take your clothes and place it in the same genre that you're reaching for."

Do you like seeing your looks on celebs and bloggers?
"The celebrity thing isn't my thing. Like, I love when they wear our stuff and I know we need it, but it's not what I really long for. Our clothing can speak for itself. We just opened a London showroom six months ago because we feel like the celebrities there are more AGAIN than the celebs here. One day, we received a call that Khloe Kardashian wanted to come to the office and pick stuff to wear and I said, 'Well, if Khloe Kardashian wants it, she can go pay for it.' Stuff like that just doesn't excite me. I love real actresses, like Gwyneth Paltrow. I don't care about someone wearing AGAIN in line at Starbucks."

Interesting. What is your design process?
"First, I start a moodboard. Then, I go to every fabric show under the sun and I look for fabrics. After that, I sketch everything together and then I computerize it and give it to my patternmaker. It's hard because everything can change; if you see one fabric you're in love with, you can build your entire collection around it."

Do you listen to music when designing?
"Yes! I listen to a lot of music. One day it's Nancy Sinatra, then Led Zeppelin, then Ja Rule. [Sales manager] Courtney and I always go to shows. The last concerts I went to were Banks and James Blake. Both shows were at the cemetery, which was cool. Rather than celebrities, I love dressing musicians. We've dressed Little Dragon and also Florence Welch—she loves our stuff."

What's next for AGAIN?
"Swimwear! We're doing it for summer. There aren't any bathing suits for real women. I definitely want to open a store, but that's way long down the road. I'm not an online shopper because if I'm paying $300 for something, I want someone to tell me I look pretty in it and I want them to thank me for buying it. So yes, eventually a store. It would be located in LA, of course."

You live in Venice, correct?
"Yes, and I love it. I've lived on LA for eight years and moved every year, but when I moved to Venice, I finally found who I am. I'm from a town of 6,000 people, and Venice is even smaller, so I really enjoy that. My go-to places are Moon Juice, Gjelina, Tasting Kitchen and Townhouse. Summers in Venice are amazing."

Where do you go to unwind?
"I drive in traffic. I love sitting in my car to think and be alone. Sometimes you need a break from people. My best therapy is sitting on the 10 singing '90s at 9."
· AGAIN [Official Site]
· All At the Atelier Posts [Racked]
· AGAIN Unleashes Models at an Abandoned Furniture Store [Racked]
· GenArt Showcases Fresh Faces with AGAIN, Mansoor Scott, More [Racked]