I moved to Los Angeles in October 2020, a time when the entire world, no matter where you lived, was embracing athleisure. Given the context of the pandemic, I thought nothing of the fact that all the people I saw on my sporadic grocery store runs and takeout pickups looked like they were employed by Alo Yoga, Nike, Supreme, or—in rare moments of creativity—a hybrid of all three. It is now January 2022, and the world has since showered and changed into its outdoor clothing. Los Angeles, however, has not.
Months of keen (and, admittedly, judgment-laced) observation have proved to me that many L.A. clichés are based on true facts: Athleisure is a religion, bralettes double as outerwear, and a chic outfit is as frequent an occurrence as a rainy day. Occasionally, as I catch my reflection in a storefront window in my baggy jeans and sneakers du jour, my mind flashes back to a time when I lived in Paris, a city that commanded elegance with each Haussmannian building. (All the trademark Parisienne staples—blue jeans, crisp button-down, classic trench—instantly come to mind.) Given the number of French transplants in Los Angeles, how does a European sensibility fare in the city of sunshine and sweatpants?
As it turns out, the verdict on L.A. style is not as one-dimensional as I had assumed. Granted, there are those who share my opinion. “I have a very hard time when it comes to L.A. style, or the lack thereof,” says brand consultant and founder of StudiumVDLF Victoria de la Fuente, who lived in Paris for five years before coming to live in L.A. amid the pandemic. “In a weird way, I think of my life as an editorial, and Paris gave me the perfect stage set to deliver.”
Although De la Fuente is not a proponent of pared-down Parisian style herself—she wore Alaïa to the ballet and Dries van Noten for coffee—she respects the chic effortlessness of the French aesthetic. “It’s put-together with an undone touch—there’s a constant power balance to make sure that it looks casual.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, in her eyes, is L.A. style, which is centered around creating a persona. “L.A. style is homogenized yet polarized—either they are wearing Lululemons with Love bracelets, or they are wearing Amina Muaddi heels in a super tight Attico dress. There isn’t much in between.”