How California Inspires This Belgian Designer's Nostalgic Brand
Born in Hungary, currently living in Belgium, and with stints in London and New York in between, designer Anna Lakatos has had a variety of scenic and stylistic inspiration surrounding her, but there's always been one location that had her attention above all others: Los Angeles. Lakatos's line, Desert Sun, looks at Southern California through the lens of someone who admired it from afar through music, books, and vintage photographs. Bell bottoms decorated with embroidery of canyon landscapes and Joshua trees, multicolored patchwork minis, and bell-sleeved babydoll dresses (among other vintage-inspired designs) are steeped in nostalgia and show a romantic and often idealized view of the Golden State's golden era of Lauren Canyon hangouts with Joni Mitchell on the turntable and jam sessions until dusk.
While Lakatos's line has become a hit with stylish, music-loving ladies in cities like Austin and LA, the throwback sensibility doesn't always translate in Belgium, where vintage-inspired fashion isn't as in demand as it is in the states. That fact, coupled with the fact that the designer's long been enamored of the California landscape, has Anna seriously considering making a move out west (fingers crossed). I got the chance to chat with her on a recent, extended trip to Los Angeles where she talked about how her love affair with this city began, the importance of sustainability, and what music legend she'd love to dress in Desert Sun.
You've said you have always been inspired by Los Angeles and the southern California desert. Describe your vision of these places growing up.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to move to LA. It started as a kid when my grandmother would tell me about her trips here to visit her brother. Later on I was influenced by movies, books and lyrics that took place in California, I guess like a lot of kids in Europe are. But there was always something about this place that made me research more about it.
Generally, I would say my vision was an idealized image, as is usually the case when you think of a place you’ve never been to. I'm also the kind of person who has these phases, in which I'm totally obsessed with a particular movie, artist, era, song, etc. So each time I was researching my current fascination, I would find out a different part of LA or California I didn’t know about, be it a geographic location, era or people who made it happen.
Did that change when you finally visited for the first time? How do you see the area now as an inspiration?
I guess it didn’t really change when I first visited LA, it just made it more real. I was amazed by the fact that my “idealized” image was not damaged by the real experience. I really enjoy every minute when I’m here and I kind of find inspiration everywhere I go, and from every person I meet. I feel like there is a very positive energy coming from people here and that makes things move faster for artists in general compared to Europe. It is also very easy to travel to diverse locations from LA and to discover new sceneries so traveling definitely helps me get inspiration for my new collections.
Is Belgium's relationship with vintage and vintage inspired clothing much different than it is here in LA?
The whole vintage obsession just got there much slower than in the US and people approach it differently. For example, you have much less vintage shops and the selection is very different. The style is a little bit more pre-50s than 60s and 70s — which I personally prefer — and definitely more expensive. I think it's also a preference for Belgian people to buy more classic cuts, toned down colors and new pieces. As a result, they frequent more chain stores.
Have you always had different taste in fashion than those you grew up around?
I have always been crafty, but because I was surrounded by fashion that didn’t really suit my taste, I started creating clothes at an early age. I always felt the need to express myself through the clothes I wore so for me it was worth sticking to who I was rather than taking the easy road and looking like the others.
How does sustainability play a role in creating your collection? Is it something you're mindful of?
Absolutely. I think it's a necessity for brands today. I believe that generally people realize more and more that it is not about being a 100% eco-friendly right away but about becoming increasingly aware of what you can do to help the movement. Of course there are countries where it is still much more difficult to produce sustainably and obtain green fabrics, and some smaller brands just can’t afford to be fully eco-friendly right away. To me it's much more about concession; if brands start their first collections being only 50% sustainable and by doing that are able to afford making new collections that are progressively eco-friendly, it's more valuable than if they’d close a business after a few months because their heart was in the right place. But it's just as important for customers to see this concession, because by not supporting the brands that aren't 100% eco-friendly, they just take away the chance of this development from smaller brands.
You're a huge music fan. What are some artists or records that you'd say most reflect your brand?
I do have specific playlists in my mind when I create, but I’d prefer not listing specific bands so that every person can have their own favorite band popping up in their mind while wearing Desert Sun. I think a lot of our pieces kind of take you on a little bit of a road trip with this ‘traveling in a car with your friends while listening to your favorite band’ vibe, so it's important for me to let some space for imagination. I personally listen to a lot of folk, country, psych rock, glam rock, and oldies from the 60s.
What musician would you most freak out to see wearing a piece?
A custom made dress for Loretta Lynn would be the dream!
How would you spend an ideal day in Southern California looking for design inspiration?
I would start by going to the Rose Bowl, then driving to Joshua Tree and coming back to LA for a show — but that’s probably not possible in just one day!