West Hollywood Bans Sale of Fur

Anna Wintour and Mary-Kate Olsen may have to rethink their wardrobes the next time they travel to West Hollywood, because the city has formally banned the sale of fur apparel, making it the first in the U.S. to do so. The city council recently approved this groundbreaking legislation in a unanimous 5-0 vote, proving the success of WeHo’s Fur Free West Hollywood campaign, which they hope to expand to other cities. While the start date of the ban has yet to be determined, high-end stores like Maxfield on Melrose have already voluntarily removed fur from their outposts.

This isn’t West Hollywood’s first foray into animal rights awareness; back in 1989 the city was deemed a “cruelty-free zone for animals,” banning a number of practices such as the declawing of cats and cosmetic testing on animals.

As proven by a number of designers, including Halston and Michael Kors, chic faux fur is totally achievable, so you’re not losing anything here but a guilty conscience.

The questions is, will other cities follow suit?

Industry Insiders: Michael Sutton, Guy’s Guy

Soap opera star turned LA nightlife entrepreneur Michael Sutton has quite the diverse CV. He’s been nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards, he was a co-founding partner for a private membership community called Xenii, and he’s had ownership in LA hotspots The Lodge Steakhouse, Memphis, Charcoal, and supper club Goa. His new joint Guys & Dolls has been a hit among the West Coast elite.

The opening event at Guys and Dolls looked like quite a show. We opened May 26 and had a launch the day after Memorial Day Weekend. It was a bit crazy. I had a friend who was able to spin on that day, DJ AM, and we just went with it because the lounge is not a huge club-sized space. Being that it’s limited in scope anyway, we figured we’d launch on a Tuesday and it would help with our capacity issues. The event really set the tone for the past months that we’ve had.

Where are you from originally? Born and raised in Beverly Hills.

Tell me about your history with Guy Starkman of Guys Bar, which occupied the space before. I was looking for a new location to open up either a bar, lounge, or a club. I wasn’t sure which was going to come my way first. I was actually approaching Guy to see if he’d be interested in selling his location and his business to me. He had just re-built the space, and he hadn’t really opened yet, but he wasn’t quite sure. This was in November-December, when we were talking. About three weeks later, I found a location in Hollywood and I was going to move on it, and then I decided to give Guy one last phone call. During the conversation, for whatever reason — timing, luck — he was willing to sell it and we made the deal right then and there. I obviously didn’t move forward on the Hollywood location and was very, very happy to take over Guys and rename it Guys & Dolls. The idea was to be the evolution of Guy’s bar. The place that I promoted was nothing near the scope and magnitude of this location, or what was built at this location. Guy’s bar opened in 1995, and I think I promoted it at two different times, so I knew the location well. We named it Guys & Dolls to have a little play on words — established in 1995, and refined in 2009.

What’s the vibe like? It’s this sexy, sophisticated, service-oriented ultra lounge. LA doesn’t really have anything like that. It’s the size space you would see in a hotel bar, but being that it stands alone, there’s this incredible energy in the room. It’s kind of like Rose Bar New York meets Mynt Miami. You have to see it to feel that energy.

What’s the music like? The music in LA, believe it or not, has really come full circle. We were hip-hop only for so many years. I’m a huge hip-hop and rap fan, but now, I think a full night incorporates a lot of feel-good remixed 80s music and a lot of fun, happy house music. A little bit of electronic house, more European in scope. Everything that we do at Guys & Dolls is really catered to the happiness of the women. The music, cocktail menu, the vibe. If the women are happy, then we have a successful lounge. It’s all about the women.

Why is that? It’s the secret of LA. I think this is the case anywhere, but LA specifically, because of the celebrity factor. It’s all about celebrities and women. If you capture those two, keep them coming back and happy and advocating your place, then you win.

The women bring the men? Exactly. The beautiful women always attract the men and bring us the best clientele. The place is an extension of entertaining my friends. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I realize that if I just try to build a place that would accommodate my friends and my needs, inevitably it ends up being a successful venue. I feel like I’m in touch with what would work and what would be embraced by the city. My friends, luckily, are fun, like to have a good time, and are beautiful people. That grows organically, and like anything, it’s not about the dollars you throw out to market it; it’s got to be grassroots. It’s either something that people like or people don’t, and I never want to sell something that people don’t like.

How’d you make the transition from acting to nightlife? It was out of necessity. I was working on a soap opera where you’re just given dialogue after dialogue, pages and pages. It’s a never-ending cycle of putting words into your head. So, I didn’t have any time to see my friends. My father was a publicist at the time, and he’d taken on an account at a club that used to be very hot called Bar One. I told him that I would go in and throw a party there once a week so that I’d have a chance to see my friends. I ended up launching the opening of their new bar, called The Room. From the first night we did it, I had my actor and model friends, photographers, directors, producers, and agents. I did a party or two a week for the last 15 years, believe it or not. About seven years ago, I invested my own money into a place called the Hollywood Canteen, and that was my first transition to operations, marketing, and promotions. I loved it. After that, I got into The Lodge Steakhouse. I really got an education in business because I had the mindset of an artist and wanting to do creative things as opposed to business. At this point in my life, I have a good background in both. You need that to be successful.

Where are your spots in LA? The best sushi place in LA is in Beverly Hills — it’s called Yu-N-Mi Sushi, and it’s owned by a friend of mine who was my executive chef at Goa. That’s one of my favorites. I love Mr. Chow. I like to be adventurous, so I’ll go to all the different cultural sites around the city. I’ll go to Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Thai Town, and go to the local dive restaurants there that have authentic food.

Where do you shop? I like H. Lorenzo on Sunset Plaza. I’m a huge fan of all the Japanese designers, and Lorenzo goes to Japan four times a year, and he gets all the best new designs. I don’t think anyone else does that in LA. Maxfield is great, and Fred Segal and Barneys. Those four get my paychecks a lot.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Travel. Indulgence. I definitely love to explore, so my guiltiest pleasure is that if I had the chance, I would just keep going from new destination to new destination. My second guiltiest pleasure is beautiful women.

Future Vintage: LAS Jewelry

Let’s face it: Los Angeles is not a fashion capital. But with year-round perfect weather, who really cares? Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that a large portion of the population limits their clothing options to club- or beachwear, regardless of occasion. If you explore beyond the embellished T-shirts, velour track suits, and flip flops, you’ll find a community of independent designers that transcends the trends by creating real art for the city. Amongst this group are Lisa and Dan Soltis of LAS Jewelry. With her organic design aesthetic and his professional sculpting skills, this LA-based couple creates custom jewelry that fluently balances vintage adornment with modern craftsmanship.

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I first met you at Bijou Phillip’s party for Vanessa Prager and Di Gaeta’s dual art installation at EM and Co. in Hollywood. Do you frequent the art party scene, or was this a special occasion? We love to hit up art openings anywhere, from the Culver City gallery district to Chinatown and Downtown LA’s art walk. Eveline of EM and Co. always throws a great party. We especially seek out any event that fuses fashion with art.

How did your foray into jewelry design begin? As a husband and wife team, Daniel being the sculptor and me being the painter and illustrator, we imagined the perfect collaboration and came up with a jewelry line. I could go crazy with drawing and designing on paper, and Dan will make it into a three-dimensional reality. It’s a great feeling to hold something you’ve created cast in metal.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of being an independent designer in LA? One of the biggest benefits is creating an identity for yourself as an artist — I guess that’s a challenge too. And it’s figuring out how to turn the challenges into things that are only building and benefitting our character. Some of the challenges are balancing the flow of our creative spirit through the design process to the final product, to time management, self-motivation, and business and marketing savvy. However, to have the freedom of being your own boss, taking a hold of the inspiration of this incredible city, is the best benefit of all.

With the current wave of accessory accentuation, this is really your moment. What sets LAS Jewelry apart from other emerging designers in your industry? We have a strength as a married team of artists that I think is rare. It is a blessing to have the minds of both a 2-D and 3-D artist — we believe that anything we can conceptualize, we can make. Although trends are important to the fashion world, it’s style that we seek; we view our pieces as small forms of wearable art — not just as disposable products that will float in and out from season to season. We create a broad spectrum of pieces that someone with a more demure and classic style or someone who is a bit bolder with personal expression can embrace.

If I didn’t know some of the charms and pendants were hand-sculpted by your husband, I’d swear they were antique treasures. What era are your designs influenced by? Although we are hunters and gatherers of all treasures ancient and antique, we definitely pull inspiration from natural and organic subjects, old biological and scientific illustrations, and our love of animals and anatomy. There isn’t a specific era that is a direct influence; however, we find there is beauty in age and make sure our creations reflect this aesthetic without a “brand new off the assembly line” feel.

Walk me through the collaborative process between you two in designing the sculpted pieces. It usually begins with the idea of a series of pieces, as we aim to convey a continuity through the line. We each begin by sketching out individual interpretations of what we are about to create, and we narrow the sketches to one specific image. At that point, Dan begins the transition of the design on paper to a wax model. Taking a block of carving wax, he sculpts the charm or pendant, and we put it into the production of molding and casting in various metals.

Many of your creations are one-of-a-kind. What inspires you to create new work? Much of our inspiration comes from living in LA — the architecture, the plant life, and how people in this city reinvent themselves through personal style. In addition to our sculpted metal charms and pendants, we’re inspired to develop pieces that would be sought after as original works of art. Just as if you were to buy a one-of-a-kind painting off a gallery wall, you could purchase a piece of our jewelry to wear and treasure enough to carry with you day to day. The idea of using repurposed and recycled materials has always been an absolute for us — and in addition to found vintage metal items, we began incorporating recycled leather and fabric. What techniques and materials are you interested in experimenting with in future designs? I’m experimenting with cutting up old book covers and doing miniature drawings and paintings on them, tiny enough to wear. We’re interested in working with resins, wood, and basically anything we can get our hands on to dismantle and give new life. Where can we find LAS Jewelry currently and which boutiques are on your stocklist wish list? LAS Jewelry is currently in EM and Co. on West 3rd Street, and will be in Ten Over Six on Beverly Boulevard for late summer/fall. Our stocklist wish list includes Confederacy, American Rag CIE, and Maxfield in LA, and Bess and Oak in New York.

Do you have any upcoming projects that we should know about? We are designing custom whistle charms for nonprofit organization Falling Whistles, which benefits and drives awareness to children suffering from civil war in the Congo. Check out the story online at www.fallingwhistles.com. In addition to this collaboration, we have a number of new creatures in the works and more leather goods materializing in the near future.