Purple Magazine
— The Los Angeles Issue #30 F/W 2018

zoe latta

los angeles
zoe latta

interview and portrait by OLIVIER ZAHM
photography by ROB KULISEK

All clothing Eckhaus Latta F/W 18/19

Eckhaus Latta’s New York shows gather a community of artists and creative people who might be either watching or walking the catwalk. Their store and studio in LA’s Mid-City have no sign and are surrounded by a group of young galleries and shops. The bicoastal creative duo is working on a new possibility for alternative fashion in America.

OLIVIER ZAHM — When did you open your store in Los Angeles? 
ZOE LATTA — It’s a store and a studio, on Washington between 3rd and 4th, but pretty close to the freeway. It’s Mid-City, but a lot of people call it South Koreatown. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — What’s the neighborhood like?
ZOE LATTA — It’s an amazing combination of galleries, bodegas, upholstery shops. Our friends next door have a perfume company called Régime des Fleurs. It’s more like their office and showroom. Another friend, Kristina Kite, has her gallery across the street, and the Underground Museum is next to her. The gallery Shoot the Lobster is next door to us. Karma International is just down the street. Right now, none of us has a sign or anything. But it’s nice to be part of this community.
When people come to one place, they often go to the others. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you are creating a new cultural context in the center of LA.
ZOE LATTA — Yes. And we go to each other’s openings. My space used to be the Michael Thibault Gallery, which represented a couple of my friends. We took over his lease when he moved to Minnesota. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Are you from California?
ZOE LATTA — I’m from Santa Cruz, in Northern California. But when I moved here, LA felt almost as alien to me as cities in Europe where I don’t speak the language. People were so far apart that even though I knew so many, it seemed impossible to congregate in the way I’d gotten used to, living in New York City. The possibility of running into someone simply didn’t exist. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Was it frustrating at first?
ZOE LATTA — Definitely. I was impatient when I first moved here. I wanted something that it wasn’t. Then, once I established my home, a pattern of living, and my own space… I started to love it more and more. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — When did you move your company, Eckhaus Latta, here to Mid-City?
ZOE LATTA — Five years ago. We already existed in New York, but I moved here to work on production, going to factories out in Vernon, and figuring out the lay of the land. So, now that we have a real headquarters,
I feel like I really live here, and this space is the store and a place for screenings, readings, and things that have nothing to do with fashion. Sometimes we get a projector and put a bunch of chairs in the parking lot for screenings. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you interact with the local communities.
ZOE LATTA — Our neighbors sometimes join in, so it feels more like a community and a place to congregate. During the first years, the artist-run exhibition space 356 Mission had opened. It’s closing, but the precedent was set of having space where people see or make art and interact — which feels very different from New York. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — How long were you in New York?
ZOE LATTA — Ten years. Well, on the East Coast. I studied at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design]. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — And then you started to work in fashion in New York?
ZOE LATTA — Yeah. With Mike [Eckhaus]. For about two years, I was going back and forth between New York and here, and now I live here and sometimes go to New York. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, is Eckhaus Latta bicoastal?
ZOE LATTA — Truly bicoastal. [Laughs] Mike’s still in New York. Though I hate how that word is so totalizing. What are you? 

OLIVIER ZAHM — [Laughs] I’m transatlantic. But have you, in a way, rediscovered your own country?
ZOE LATTA — Yeah. I like to drive, and LA’s such a driving city. But I would hate it if I were a commuter, which is what a lot of LA people are. It feels a bit like London without public transportation because it’s a city made up of a bunch of tiny towns. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is that bad?
ZOE LATTA — Well, there’s a lot to discover. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — And does LA or California influence your creative work?
ZOE LATTA — Indirectly, but not in a way that’s like “I gotta make clothes for Coachella,” you know? [Laughs] 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Well… I don’t want to be snobbish, but I saw fashion in LA, and especially Coachella, as the end of fashion — a disaster for fashion.
ZOE LATTA — [Laughs] Yeah. It could be a recipe for disaster in terms of the way people dress here. I was in New York last weekend, and it was the first warm day of the year, and I went to Tompkins Square Park, and people were almost naked, wearing cutoff shorts that looked like thongs. But it’s great. [Laughs] The energy was palpable. But everyone looked like a disaster. Then I kind of realized that every day in LA is like that. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — So how would you describe fashion in LA?
ZOE LATTA — It’s not so important! Because of the weather of course. But also people are rarely seen: they’re in their car. Or they dress the way a person will to walk the dog. No one in New York would be seen like that for a second. I guess this interests me because the people that do “dress up” or choose to engage with fashion here in LA often tend to do it for themselves, for how it makes them feel, and not to impress strangers walking by. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — At the same time, LA has a vintage tradition — there are so many vintage stores.
ZOE LATTA — Yeah, a lot — because there’s more space, and people get rid of things so much slower. LA’s a port city, so there’s an influx of older stuff, furniture, clothing, weird tchotchkes, everything. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — And when it arrives, it stays?
ZOE LATTA — Well, things are passed around. I have a friend who’s a vintage picker, and hanging out with her is so much fun. But it seems like every designer in the world comes here to see her. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s funny how California vintage shops have influenced fashion.
ZOE LATTA — Well, so much of fashion from the last 15 years has been based on references, recall, nostalgia, or remembering an era. Which is a way that Mike and I really do not work. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Because you’re more engaged in erasing references.
ZOE LATTA — Well, we’re just not interested in reproducing the past. But it would be rude to say we’re not influenced or excited by different shapes or periods of time when people dressed in a certain way. But in an effort to actually make it new and make it more exciting, it’s more fun for us to pair something, say, more futuristic-feeling with something that seems like it’s from the 1940s. But we don’t really talk or think in that way. It’s only when we’re looking back that it becomes apparent. And that might be an LA influence. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — It seems like people here don’t care about trends.
ZOE LATTA — Well, as a business we make clothes every season and have to sell them because of the inherent structure of the fashion industry. But we really want people to wear our clothes until they’re threadbare and worn thin. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — You began after Rodarte. There are not so many creative designers in Los Angeles.
ZOE LATTA — When I got here, I was thinking, “Well, there are three companies: American Apparel, YSL, and Patagonia,” plus Rodarte! And now there’s us. And now YSL and American Apparel are gone but Celine is arriving in LA! Exciting.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, what are the possibilities here for fashion?
ZOE LATTA — The manufacturing here is incredible! Unlike New York, where there is a staggering decrease in manufacturers who can afford to stay in business, LA has a huge wealth of talent, as well as the machinery to make things. In the same way that vintage shirts stay around, old machines stay around. Trades are still being passed on to younger generations. So, for things like jersey and denim, we get the best people to make them because they never stopped making them. That’s not to say that New York doesn’t also house a wealth of talent and expertise — we still work with a number of wonderful factories there.
I just think the landscape of New York manufacturing has been more tumultuous in the last few decades. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, your clothes mirror your life…
ZOE LATTA — I’m happy to hear you say that because that’s exactly what we’re trying to say. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Your shows give the feeling of being part of a community — and an art community — which they should because fashion has always been connected to art.
ZOE LATTA — Mike and I studied art, and most of our friends went on to work more in art than in fashion. So, for us, we’ve always wanted our brand and our clothes to be inclusive, and not to have an air of exclusivity for the sake of exclusivity. That said, our goal isn’t to be in Walmart and sell to every single human on the planet, either. So, there’s an interesting space that we’ve grown with and have tried to figure out: how to be inclusive without compromising the quality of the clothing, or how something is made and how the people who make it get paid, and things like this — which are business problems. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — In a way Eckhaus Latta is reconnecting with the New York fashion scene and collective spirit of designers like Susan Cianciolo, and with Bernadette Corporation.
ZOE LATTA — Yeah. Susan’s a dear friend of ours. We have some of her pieces here. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — You sell her clothes?
ZOE LATTA — Yeah. And we talk at length about fashion together, but at the end of the day, Mike and I — and Susan — think there are two industries, and you can’t be in both in the same capacity. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — By two industries, you mean art and fashion.
ZOE LATTA — Yeah. So, I think Susan decided on art. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — What does that mean, exactly?
ZOE LATTA — That what I do in the morning when I wake up and get e-mails and have to deal with the kind of day-to-day things, it’s not like staring at a blank wall or room thinking about what I’m going to make — no offense to how artists work. I know I’m making a vast generalization. [Laughs] But there’s a difference, and Mike and I have chosen a different path in terms of how fashion can be a business. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Are you saying it has to be a business first?
ZOE LATTA — Yes. And it’s exciting for us. And that to us, it’s a creative problem-solving challenge. Right now, one of our challenges is how to make work that is conceptual and has integrity — on a thoughtful level — in addition to running a business. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — This is your generation. You’re, in a way, more informed and more conscious of creating a business than my generation was in the beginning of the ’90s.
ZOE LATTA — But it couldn’t have happened without you guys. Our practice could not have happened without the influence of Margiela, Helmut Lang, Susan, either. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — The ’90s was a very important period, but it’s gone. That’s also the cruelty of fashion: things disappear quickly.
ZOE LATTA — I’m trying to think who’s still around. But I disagree that people don’t really remember this era.
I feel like it’s held in the highest regard. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Azzedine Alaïa or Karl Lagerfeld wouldn’t be possible anymore. I mean to have such long careers?
ZOE LATTA — Maybe not. Anyway, Azzedine was an anomaly on all fronts: he founded his own house, and it continued for so long. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Maybe that’s a model of being independent and creating your own ecosystem. Which is something you can do from LA because you’re further from the system.
ZOE LATTA — We are, and we aren’t. Right now, we’re in the competition for the LVMH Prize. We also do all of our sales in Paris, and go there at least two or three times a year. So, the system still keeps our engine running.
I think that’s also why we’re in fashion. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — But you’re not totally dependent on the system, and mentally or conceptually not at all.
ZOE LATTA — We do need to sell clothes. But how we do that may be why fashion is so exciting: it’s a constantly changing landscape. The biggest retailer today will be different from tomorrow’s, and from the people wearing the clothes. I mean, we don’t dress celebrities much. But all of that just changes so much, too. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — You don’t need to dress celebrities anymore, even if you are in LA.
ZOE LATTA — So far it’s a proven model that people use to sell clothing but we don’t have the bandwidth for it, and it doesn’t really interest us anyway. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you still believe in fashion advertising?
ZOE LATTA — Yeah. We do fashion shows and are making the clothes until the day before, and then put them on models and have a show. And that is all exhilarating and fun and great, but there is a missed opportunity to recontextualize the clothes. So, the videos, and then the advertisements, served to fill some creative space for us, and coming from a place different from our marketing team telling us we need to generate x kind of traffic for the web shop. But someone should be doing that, too. Unfortunately, our sex campaign didn’t sell anything! [Laughs]



Fitch Lunar, hair — Andrea Ámez, make-up — Nicola Kast, casting — Aaron Minardi, production assistant — Marley Camacho, Naythan Cotne, Benj Draper, Kat Hessen, Daniel Hivner, Zoe Latta and Michael, models


[Table of contents]

The Los Angeles Issue #30 F/W 2018

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