Featured Posts

To top
29 Apr

Los Angeles Party Clothes for Grown-up Debutantes

When someone thinks of Los Angeles style, prim taffetas and three-piece skirt suits aren’t often a part of the image. It’s something that Chelsea Mak — an independent designer-on-the-rise based in Silver Lake — is seeking to change.

Mak, who founded her namesake label in 2018, is immersed in a “rebel debutante vibe” that gives a counterpoint to the neutral linens and knits which have turn into Los Angeles’ important style currency.

The brand reflects an amalgamation of Mak’s native Pasadena roots, the formal dresses she wore to Shanghai teenage coming-of-age events, and the tailoring culture she was exposed to while visiting the Chinese city together with her mother.

The result are matching sorbet-colored shantung pencil pants and shirt sets, handkerchief hemline silk dresses that tie in knots, and ivory blouses with 360-degree shoulder frills.

It’s all hyper feminine — but with a rather imperfect and nagging edge. With Los Angeles being a mecca for the perpetually underdressed, Mak’s clothes might be considered a type of counterculture.

Based on the designer, that situational irony is intentional. “It jogs my memory of once I was in highschool as a debutante and going to Shanghai and making an identical outfit in Thai silk for top tea and getting so stoned the night before that I woke up late and my best friend needed to drive me [to the event] on the Biltmore Hotel,” said Mak, who sources all of her fabrics in deadstock markets in Shanghai.

Chelsea Mak fall 2023

courtesy/Chelsea Mak

“I believe when people consider L.A. style, it’s all beige and linen and neutral. There may be so rather more substance behind the culture — there may be all of Pasadena and it’s turn into more popular lately to revisit old Hollywood culture like Taix, the old style French restaurant in Echo Park, or Musso and Frank’s or the Huntington Gardens,” the designer added of the Los Angeles that speaks to her.

Mak worked closely with Scott Sternberg before starting her own line — first as a senior designer for his brand Band of Outsiders, and later as a key founding member of the Entireworld team.

She decided to separate off and launch her own label rooted within the kinds of materials she desired to wear herself — and quickly attracted a fan base of well-dressed Los Angeles women from across various creative fields.

Blouses and pants run around $350, while dresses are around $600. They’re stocked at stores including Mohawk General Store, Fred Segal, Mr. Larkin and Des Kohan — amongst other select multibrand stores. Almost half of Mak’s sales, though, are made in her home studio where women are encouraged to try on clothes in a palm frond-wallpapered powder room.

In Los Angeles, where social circles are unfolded across miles of traffic, Mak knew that she needed to project a picture of tight-knit community in an effort to give her brand a compelling narrative. She was strategic from the start to ask well-connected, creative types to model for her seasonal look books — giving the impression, each online and off, that her clothes are something value participating in. 

“I spent plenty of energy constructing a community of girls in Los Angeles. Everyone seems to be creative in a way I actually admire,” she said.

Mak’s latest challenge is tweaking her line to reflect her own evolving tastes, in addition to those of her community. Seeking to streamline her signature ruffles, Mak settled on a recent shirt and dress pattern — each with little, artistically placed ties that cinch fabric across the chest and nip the waist, culminating in a fistful of little silk bows.

“I noticed I would like to decorate more womanly and manipulate fabric on the body so it could flatter people. I believe these are a natural departure from my ruffles that are so overtly feminine,” Mak said.

For fall, she is going to reprise the concept in halter tops and recent dress styles.

Chelsea Mak spring 2023

Chelsea Mak spring 2023

Courtesy/Chelsea Mak

Recommended Products

Beauty Tips
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.