Photos: Courtesy of Where Los Angeles
As confused as we are with The Californians' awkward Valleyspeak, we'll admit that one stereotype is true: We Angelenos really do obsess over traffic hacks, whether we're Lyfting it or behind the wheel. (When in Hollywood, always take Fountain.) Regardless of how we get from point A to point Z, even born-and-raised Angelenos can find new and exciting corners in the City of Angels to explore — and that's the inspiration behind Where, a new local label inspired by LA's coolest coordinates.
Founded by recent high school grads (and now college students) Natasha Hunt-Lee and Tyler Makhani, the LA streetwear brand was created with proud Angelenos in mind. Take, for instance, the embroidered white tees ($77) from the label's LA series, which allow wearers to keep their favorite stylish shopping stretches —like Abbot Kinney, Melrose, Fairfax, and Mulholland, to name a few — close to their heart.
The label recently expanded from its signature street-obsessed shirts with a 10-piece streetwear line to round out their lounging-in-LA offerings. Dubbed the Repose collection ($35 to $149), the LA-made range is comprised of locally-sourced French terry essentials, like embroidered and screen-printed hoodies and distressed sweatpants with grosgrain ribbon side stripes.
Don't think you need yet another set of comfy made-in-LA sweats? Perhaps you'll be convinced to add to cart knowing that the brand is donating 51% of profits from the Yes M'am and the Rose hoodies to the National Women's Law Center's Time's Up legal defense fund.
At the moment, Where's LA-bred co-founders are currently living beyond state lines: Hunt-Lee is now a musician living in New York, while Makhani (who previously co-founded an online tutoring startup while still in high school) is pursuing a business degree at University of Michigan.
Keep reading to get to know the designer duo and find out how getting outside of Santa Monica inspired them to create Where, their favorite streets to drive at night, and more.
Where are you both from, and what inspired the concept of Where?
Natasha Hunt-Lee and Tyler Makhani: We were both born and raised in LA. We came up with the idea to start a fashion line when we graduated high school and started driving around the greater LA area. As two kids who grew up near Santa Monica, we never had the chance to explore as much as we wanted to. It's so easy to stay in one place. But, when we finally ventured out, we were amazed by the variety of culture and landscape the city had to offer. It's incredible that so much can exist in one place.
Within LA, there are the greener, more groomed areas, buzzing, cement heavy neighborhoods, charming beach towns along the coast, mysterious hilly residences, young bohemian communities, and the urban grit of Downtown… And, this is all beyond the sprawling suburbia that we belonged to (that in itself varies in attitude and physicality). This new appreciation excited us. We already loved LA, and that was when we only knew the smallest sliver of it.
Separately, we had always shared a love for fashion and the clothing industry — how cool it is to take a necessity like clothing and turn it into a piece of art. So, there wasn't one specific moment, just a series of inspirations. We drove Downtown, and to Vernon, and Huntington Park and the City of Commerce, not knowing very much. Running on excitement, we committed ourselves to creating a clothing line that we named WHERE, rooted in our fascination of the city we were born and raised in.
What do you love about your LA neighborhood/city?
NHL & TM: We love our LA neighborhood because, above all, it's home. And yes, the weather is always great, and the beach is nearby. But, being able to drive the same street that we drove to school everyday — the comfort in that — and passing the hallmarks of our own lives on those streets, that's something you can only get in a place you've invested a lot of time into.
How does Los Angeles inspire your designs?
NHL & TM: Los Angeles inspires our designs because, apart from being the subject matter of most of our pieces, everything we create is molded by LA's garment industry. From the cotton to the stitching, we are using what LA and its creators have to offer.
When you're not busy designing, where do you hang out when you're in LA? What are a few of your favorite LA streets for exploring, shopping, and eating?
NHL: I love driving and one of my favorite things to do at night is go up Roscomare and drive Mulholland with my friends. Sometimes if we have time we get all the way to the Hollywood freeway. Otherwise, we stop before Coldwater and park at a lookout. It's one of those streets that is so unique to a place like Los Angeles. Places like Fairfax and San Vicente and Larchmont are all cool in their own way, but every city has their own version of commercial streets — to shop, eat on and experience. Mulholland, however, with that view, is really a one-of-a-kind thing.
One of our favorite places to eat, especially when we're working downtown is Grand Central Market. We've tried the majority of the stands there and have never been disappointed. People like to think New York is stronger in culinary culture, but LA is constantly improving. And Mexican food… come on. Try to find a comparable taco elsewhere let alone an avocado that tastes similar to one you find in Southern California.
TM: No matter where we go, we are kind of always designing. Even when we're technically relaxing, LA is constantly giving us new ideas. I personally love driving to Melrose [near] Fairfax, looking through the thrift stores, and stand-alone boutiques. We get a lot of our inspiration from recycled graphics and sometimes we'll find an old t-shirt at the [Fairfax High] Trading Post with the perfect font for a new design.
Another favorite place of mine is home. I love exploring, but when I sit in my backyard and the sky is blue and it's 72 degrees regardless of whether it's December or May, I always think to myself how lucky I am to have been born in LA where I feel not only so much comfort, but I am also surrounded by endless opportunities to expand.
If you were an LA street, which one would you be and why?
NHL & TM: If we were an LA street, we'd be Sunset. In the way that this brand has encouraged us to explore, Sunset Boulevard is everywhere. Not only does it begin (or end, based on your direction) at the beach. But from there, it takes you through Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood, to the side of Little Armenia, to Silver Lake, Echo Park, Chinatown and then finally Downtown LA. One street! Not even a highway. And it encompasses so much. That's at least the street we'd aspire to be.
What's next for Where?
NHL & TM: We just released our first outerwear and loungewear collection with 51% of the profits from key pieces being donated to Time's Up. We are now working on expanding our LA Series, our staple line. We started predominantly on the west side and are expanding further east and into the Valley with streets like Hyperion and maybe even Ventura Boulevard. We're also in the works of setting up an extended pop-up on Melrose Avenue which is projected to open in a few months.