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Chanel, Galliano, Westwood—questionable ideology (political or otherwise) aside, fashion has always needed rebels and revolutionaries to keep it on its toes. Admittedly, we get a little hot and bothered whenever a sartorial rule breaker storms LA's style scene, like local label James Payne, which we first got word of during last year's Intermix bash. We're glad our Internet-fueled curiosity got the best of us, because we definitely like what we saw.
Founded two years ago by one seriously badass group of best friends, co-founder Sarah Brannon tells us the brand's made-in-America, PETA-approved merch was designed with "compassionate, stylish as fuck" folks in mind. Comprised of men's and women's outerwear, tops, tees, accessories and more ($60 to $880), the line feels like one part Sid Vicious' sneer mixed with The Clash's politi-punk pedigree plus one part Cara D.'s don't-give-a-damn 'tude with a pinch of Alexa's It girl charm, just for good measure. We had a chat with Brannon—who's also the designer behind Racked fave Chelsea Rebelle—to learn more about the not-so-mythical James Payne, what inspires the brand's designers and much more.
Designer Mikey Brannon with the man who inspired the brand. Photo via @wearejamespayne/Instagram
Who's James Payne and what's his story?
"James Payne started as an idea to fill in the gaps and make a perfect skinny jean and faux motorcycle jacket, then our A.D.D. took hold and we haven't stopped making new styles since. As for as the name, we were stuck on finding one that was vague but specific, said nothing but said it all. Then we were in visiting Mikey's Southern Belle grandmother in North Carolina. Because she loves a drink, she has this charming elderly driver who looks Danny Glover. Before you could say 'I'm too old for this shit,' we had stolen his identity."
And how'd the brand come about?
"James Payne is primarily made up of three best friends, myself, Mikey and Colin. Colin lives in London but comes to LA often, Colin and I are both from New Zealand, but I've lived in the U.S. for 12 years. Mikey is originally from Tryon, North Carolina but also lived in NZ for a while. We have all been friends for about 15 years. We have a LONG history with one another!"
Who are JP's design muses?
"We wanted to make clothes that we'd be all be excited to wear—but considering Mikey wears exclusively black rags, Colin dresses like a 19th century prospector and I'm pregnant, this isn't always easy. We thought for a second about making distressed gold digger overalls with an elasticated waist but...Basically we make elegant clothes for dirtbags that reflect the underside of LA, celebrating and satirising faded Hollywood glamour. Wow, the only way you could make that answer more pretentious is if you hand-stamped it with gold lacquer and natural indigo."
How would you describe the James Payne man and woman?
"I would describe these people in very complementary terms like 'discerning', 'hedonist', 'charismatic', 'compassionate', 'stylish as fuck'..."
Cool and the gang. Image via James Payne
Who would you love seeing your designs?
"I mean the obvious answer would be [Chloë] Sevigny, [Vincent] Gallo and Riff-Raff [from Rocky Horror Picture Show], but about a month back, we had press with Soko, Wiz Khalifa, a Jonas brother and Boy George wearing our shit—all in the same week. The only thing that could top that is if we could time travel and see James Payne on Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando, Joe Strummer or Johnny Thunders."
We dig the fact that all your merch is animal-friendly and made in LA! What inspired the move?
"We wanted to make a brand that was amazing quality and beautiful cuts without the completely unnecessary side-effect of exploiting anyone or anything. Family has always been the foundation of James Payne and I guess it flows from that. We are lucky enough to have some incredible manufacturers in LA and trust that our customers will pay for well made shit. As for the animal-friendly thing, Mikey's mum said it best: 'We don't eat anything with eyes and we don't wear our friends.'"
What can we expect from the brand in the future?
"If you can expect anything you're already one step ahead of us, we got no idea what we're doing."
· James Payne [Official Site]
· Intermix Partygoers Tell Us What They Love About '90s Style [Racked]