Industry Insiders: Suzy Yun, Soft and Sassy Designer

Suzy Yun is a girl’s girl designer. Her pieces are understated, easy to wear and heavy on the sass. Think Grace Jones meets Joni Mitchell. There’s some serious attitude in her signature elephant jumper, made famous by Alexander McQueen’s muse Leila Moss, of British rock band The Duke’s Spirit, who romps across stages rocking its heavy shoulders and daring short skirt. We sat down with Yun at Silverlake’s Flore Vegan for some healthy nosh, giggles and, of course, fashion talk.

When did you first get interested in fashion? I got into art and drawing then fell in love with the female form. Especially how fabric hangs on it, changes the shape and how it makes a woman feel. It was kind of always there. My mom bought my first sewing machine when I was 13 and I just started playing with stuff.

When did you design your first piece? I was playing around with this fabric and when I was younger I was into really slutty clothes. I wanted to show as much as possible. I wrapped this thing around and made the hottest bathing suit. Then one just like it was in a Tone Loc video.

The Duke Spirit’s Leila Moss, Alexander McQueen’s crown muse, has rocked your Elephant jumper on stages across America and Europe. The first time I saw them perform, I was just totally mesmerized by her. My boyfriend was in the band too and I knew I should be watching him but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She just has this energy and strength and everything that embodies what I want Unhee to be. She really inspired me a lot. I saw that and gave her the jumper. I was really shy about it.

Who would you pick, dead or alive, to design a stage costume for? Tina Turner and the Ikettes in ‘71. They always had the talent, but this was before they had the budget. I’d hook it up. Or Grace Jones because she’d go there with you and beyond. She’d wear anything and wear the shit out of it. She’d do it proper. Debbie Harry even. People who are willing to go there and take risks.

Describe your SS2010 collection. As a kid I always thought Al from Quantum Leap was such a flashy dresser, but watching it now I realize he was wearing what people thought future clothes would look like and they are so dated. I like the idea of how we’re always trying to predict what people in the future are going to wear but it’s not anything that anybody would ever wear. I think dated future clothes are funny like Pigs in Space.

If you could bottle up your current inspirations what would you cork? Sounds included. Sticking a woman in a bottle sounds terribly masochist but I’m into bad-ass women now. Growing up I’ve always been pretty small and fairly quiet. I always thought I had to be so tough. I was into the toughest, the strongest and I always equated that with male characters. Just recently I’ve started questioning that. I wondered why I’ve been ignoring women. And now I’m so into strong women. We can be hard and soft at the same time. It’s really unique to women and makes us dynamic.

Who are designers that challenge you? I know everyone says Alexander McQueen but God it’s always like, ‘Fuck really?’ It really humbles you. I think Martin Margiela is always on the forefront. He starts trends five years before they even become trends. And my favorite designer is Alber Elbaz. What he does with fabrics, like silk, is what I think silk was meant to do. His work is absolutely amazing, always classic but with a twist.

What would you do in the fashion world if you weren’t afraid? If I wasn’t afraid I would make more things that nobody would wear. I would have more of a sense of humor in fashion. Fashion can be funny. I think I worry about what things are going to look like or if people are going to get it. But if I wasn’t afraid I wouldn’t care if they didn’t get it. I don’t want to be the kooky wacky person who wears a plastic crocodile on their shoulders. Not that I think that’s funny, but you get it. I’d add humor to my fashion more and forget about the rest.

Where are your go-to LA places? I shop religiously for intimates at Panty Raid and I fancy the pho from Silverlake’s Pho Café.

Photo: Charlie Chipman

Ryan Heffington: LA’s Guerilla Dance Pied Piper

Ryan Heffington has been described as the “sweaty love child of Freddy Mercury and Martha Graham.” I completely agree; if those two had made babies, their kiddies would probably have the charisma, organic talent, and out-of-control precision Heffington exudes while performing just about any activity. The man commands attention when he’s grilling vegetables, let alone when he’s performing “Dirty Diana” in a packed nightclub. A born superstar dancer, performer, designer, and choreographer, Heffington’s ferocious, uncompromising energy lights up — think psychedelic high — before loosening up the world one stage, club, or impromptu street performance at a time. From his arrival in the City of Angels his determination was to simply be himself. Only he is someone, probably the only one, who’s as comfortable in a leopard leotard as he is in a vibrant Rastafarian getup or just some casual low pumps and jeans. Put mildly, he’s like no other.

Heffington’s own curious self-exploration is producing a change and a challenge to the world of dance. This ain’t no stiff highbrow art, and it ain’t no bubble gum pop art dance show either. This is a guerilla in-your-face dance visual extravaganza without limits that’ll leave you wanting more, being more, and expanding your own individual possibilities. As many have said before me and will continue to proclaim after me, thank you Sir Heffington for you being you.

What was the first song you choreographed a dance to, and how old were you? The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance.” I was in 5th or 6th grade and we were going off to camp for a week. They had a talent show there. So I gathered some hot chicks and choreographed this high energy techno disco dance. It was so natural for me. I remember working on the dance during recess and being very serious. I would tell my girls, “We are in rehearsal. I don’t care if you want to play. You’ve gotta dance.”

Very serious indeed. I’ll bet you had costumes … Of course. They were typical 80s paint-splatter pieces.

Did you make them? No, I don’t think so. But I did style them of course. Control, control, control!

What specifically prompted you to relocate away from the theater for “Sex on a String“? Around ’95 Bubba Carr and I were doing this thing called “Psycho Dance Show,” which is an in-club performance. It was really exciting to me that we could access a different audience. It seemed at that point totally appropriate because what we were doing wouldn’t necessarily fit into a theater setting. It was all very avant garde, very punk rock. We threw shit at the audience — food, liquid. We had guys playing girls getting sex changes to become men.

Sounds like your average night at the theater. Yeah just your typical theater. It was a party. It was rock and roll. I’ve always been interested in mixing the world of rock and roll with dance and introducing dance to new audiences.

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You’ve also always been the instigator deflowering people with the world of dance. “Fingered” took my dance virginity. “Fingered” was my last big club. We sold out 300 people every month. We did half hour contemporary dance concert in the middle of this club, and the respect that it was given was incredible — especially being at a club. Everyone was silent, sat down, and stopped partying like mad dogs. It was a true dance party. People wanted to see dance, were inspired by dance, and wanted to dance.

I loved it that the night would begin with a dance lesson for us. Teaching a class and having a performance in a place where people wouldn’t typically expect would bring people really close to dance. After a performance, people would come up to me and say, “I’ve never seen dance live before.” I thought what a shame. Teaching people and having it be in an environment where they’re more comfortable and can have a couple of drinks and chill out. It was a great transition for them to become part of the dance community.

How do you view dance as an art medium? How has it changed throughout the years? I think being in Los Angeles, there’s a diverse ground for dance. I came here to be a commercial dancer. I wanted to be on TV and in videos. I didn’t know about dance companies. I came here to do the commercial dance thing because that’s what I had been exposed to. I think because I came from such a small-town, suppressed environment.

It’s hard to imagine you in a small town. I know. I had so many people directing what I was doing there. Can’t grow your hair out. Can’t do this. It was all very controlled. When I moved to LA it was my time to be who I was. I came to do this commercial work, but I wanted to grow my hair out, I wanted to grow my facial hair out, I wanted to wear skirts. So I landed in this world of being individual in this commercial world. It was a little bit of a mindfuck, but I stayed true. I stuck my feet down and was who I was, and that was the when dance started to change for me. It began this ground of exploration. All the sudden I had no rules and it was really fucking exciting.

Where are you leading the world of dance to next? I’m working on a play, “The Stronger” — a non-traditional theatrical work with Terence McFarland. He’s a student of mine at Sweaty Sundays and quite the genius. It’s part of a three-week workshop forum at UCLA called “Hot House.” The last day, we informally present the work in progress to the other groups involved in the workshop. The collaborators of Site Unseen are preparing for our next piece. Currently we’re sniffing out the perfect unrealized dance space and brewing over concepts.

Aren’t you behind “Dance Attack” too? I do it all girl. I wanted my dancers in Sweaty Sundays to not only participate in a class but also be performers too. I keep it fun, get people together and rehearse these routines and then go out on the street and perform. The energy is amazing. People running down the street and dancing. People become performers. I bet it comes to them later, and they’ll think, “I’m a dancer. Oh wait, I’m a performer too.” I bet their feathers get puffed and they get excited about it. It’s really fucking cool. I thought it was important for them to have their own stage.

What’s your favorite place to do some retail therapy? By far the Good Will. The motherfucker Hood Will. It’s my Barney’s.

LA Openings: Mona Moore, House on Genesee

Mona Moore (Venice) – The powerhouse of shoe collections just opened its first stateside boutique. Shoes by Belgian designers: Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann, and Dries Van Noten. Modern rock n’ roll motorcycle boots by Phi are absolute perfection. ● House on Genesee (West Hollywood) – Not your typical retail space. Mind-blowing new concept — a space that sells fantastic cutting-edge designers minus the sales force. TeAmo, Mancandy, Unholy Matrimony, Kill City, and (our favorite) the take-your-breath-away designs of Carla Fernandez. One of the visionaries behind this radical concept space, Gabriela Artigas, has her bold, brazen and wholly feminine jewelry line on display as well.

Love Affair: Kiki de Montparnasse + Decadestwo in NYC

Everyone enjoys a good love story — especially when it stars two sexy ladies. Enter one foxy dame infamous for her naughty-wear, plus a sophisticated fashionista full of glamour and intrigue, and you’ve got the femme fatales to act out a hell of a passion play. Melrose Avenue neighbors Kiki de Montparnasse and Decadestwo have fallen head over heels, and everyone is swooning. The latest and perhaps greatest yet expression of their love is the second coming of the D2 Pop-Store, located in Kiki de Montparnasse’s New York location.

Open to the public October 2-4, D2 is presenting its first-ever menswear event and a deliciously decadent shoe collection. “A girl’s gotta walk!” D2 partner Christos Garkinos explains. “We are bringing five times the amount of shoes as we did in the spring, including a Manolo and Louboutin wall of fashion ecstasy.” Kiki de Montparnasse is not only hosting but also pulling “from the archive of their collection of vintage dressing gowns, loungewear and one-of-a-kinds for an exclusive sale.”

Home Shopping @ LA’s House on Genesee

What could have turned into a bad investment — a house purchased years back when real estate was still thriving — is now reaping dividends as a radical new exploration of art, design and fashion. The House on Genesee, located in West Hollywood’s Spaulding Square, is a house that is not a home. It’s the love child of the three Artigas siblings: Alejandro is an architect and furniture designer, Gabriela is the creative genius behind her forceful and lovely jewelry line Gabriela Artigas, and Teresita is a charming host and food connoisseur. Together they created a space to visit casually for inspiration, community, to lunch and to shop.

And the shopping is cream of the crop. First off, it’s a joy to shop in a house; there’s truly an intimate energy that cannot be duplicated in any boutique. There’s not a salesperson in sight, either … just fellow artists and designers. The men’s and women’s lines become art themselves organically in such an environment. The designs of TeAmo, T.e.m.o.r.e.s., Kill City, and Mancandy resemble paintings on a wall rather than items for your closet. The beautiful work of Carla Fernandez deserves applause, as every piece and delicate detail is made indigenously. The serendipitous series of events that resulted in this space coming alive might be exactly what LA needs — a place for all its refugees to call home.

Los Angeles: Top 10 Chinatown Boutiques

An insatiable craving for Asian eats isn’t the only yearning that gets hipsters through the dragon gates. Chinatown is a constantly expanding fashion/art community featuring some of the city’s most diverse and interesting shopping. Pop-up stores with rotating fresh talents and highly curated concept boutiques all in a neighborhood with firecracker vendors, a wishing well, and the best dim sum to ever hit a pair of chop sticks.

Choose Chinatown – A whole lot of Swedish pride hidden in Chinatown. This extensive collection of Scandinavian line Cheap Monday makes us happy every day of the week. ● Flock Shop – Risky business fashion for hipsters looking to be noticed, remembered, and coveted while hitting the scene.

Lion’s Den – Urban kicks for tearing around a piece of ground in your home town. ● Neo Happyland Co. – Asian supermarket superstore where Hollywood kids and Chinatown locals shop till they drop. ● Ooga Booga – A provocative collection of literature, plus art ranging from appalling to cute and high fashion. ● Realm – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Frog Teapot and other obvious necessities. ● Robocon – Japanese art toys, obscure collectibles, and no sign of Robocop. ● Welcome Hunters – Mouth-watering collections of international high-fashion lines put them on par with the wondrous Opening Ceremony, while remaining intimate and underground. ● Sincere Imports – Traditional Chinatown kitsch trinket store everyone knows, loves, frequents. ● Fifth Floor – Catch the metaphorical view from the 5th Floor without having to climb any stairs.

Ten Over Six Launches Capsule Collection into Orbit

The OCD accessory-obsessed boutique Ten Over Six has launched a “delicious details” private label. They are calling it a capsule collection due to its embryonic size, but from the looks of it there’s nothing tiny to be found. The quilted paint-dipped booties, hand-dipped quilted leather clutches, graphic pop rings fashioned out of acrylic and wood with artist Steven Shein, and vintage wool and cashmere desert fashion knitted coats are all for the large and in charge.

Ten Over Six is Los Angeles’ answer to the question of “how do I make this outfit work?” From the palms of the hands reaching out from the walls to the seats of the chairs climbing to the ceiling, there’s not a fashion accessory missing from the seemingly endless display. The perfect ring, bag, shoe, necklace — or most importantly for Hollywood fashionistas, pair of shades — is here to make that high-waisted pencil-line skirt work with that darling modern blouse. We believe, like Ten Over Six, in the amazing powers of the accessory. All hail the wise vintage Indian silk clutches!

Unholy Matrimony a Marriage Made in Heaven

Brett Westfall is a man with more than one vision. First he created the ethereal Comme des Garçons Guerilla Store. Another moment of clarity gave birth to the mayfly life cycle of M’ouments, a boutique that was an experience better left unsaid. Still another vision is Unholy Matrimony, an unsurprisingly unique clothing line which just recently extended itself into the women’s arena. The launch of Westfall’s women’s collection is like his other projects — a description pales next to the material experience.

Exclusively available at the freshly opened blessed Church, Westfall chose to launch his collection there because he “believes in the vision of Rodney Burns, David Malvaney and the entire team.” Unholy Matrimony’s display is itself a statement, joining breathlessly whimsical dark fashion with “the natural cycle of short lived beauty in nature.” There is a generous row of roses underneath the collection that aid in cementing Westfall’s revelation — nature’s decree. They will wilt and perish only to be replaced with fresh ones to follow the same fate. The pieces themselves are wonders to behold: conceptual fashion inspired by the “emotions of a snow storm in the desert.” Westfall explains that “the impetus was to create a collection that adheres to the rhythm of the moon.” Except more from Westfall with an opening of Unholy Matrimony this December and reappearing women’s and men’s lines as well.

The LA Designer Supporting Katy Perry’s Boob Adjuster

While the tabloid press is buzzing about the best job ever — Katy Perry’s personal boob wrangler — we’re wondering who designed that futuristic hot pink dress. There’s something about the cut and space-age design that is so familiar. Recent images of Lady Gaga, MIA, and Ciara come to mind. As do The Teaches of Peaches. So what LA designer separates Katy Perry from her boob adjuster?

If you guessed Brian Lichtenberg, the man who put metallic triangles on the fashion map again, you are a fashion trivia winner. Lichtenberg’s designs are a must-have for a kickass stage presence and a heavily rotated video. He is in high demand for his custom designs as well as his infamous BRIANEL tank, most recently spotted on Ashton Kutcher and Rihanna. He just finished a collaboration with another local rock ‘n roll line, Kill City, that drops this October. We got a peak at the jeans, and they are smokin’. And that’s not all; this busy designer just finished his Spring 2010 line that he plans to premiere at LA Fashion Week next month. BL is saturated and available across LA, but our favorite places to shop for his pieces are the New High (M)Art and Joyrich.