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In The Spotlight: La Detresse

Meet La Detresse, the LA-cool, supermodel-approved loungewear brand.

Long-term friends and former stylists, Alana Hadid and Emily Perlstein, launched La Detresse in 2017. Initially a denim brand, the duo pivoted towards knits and tie-dye long before 2020 (did they see this coming?!).

We caught up with the pair to discuss LA living and La Detresse’s success.


How did the brand come about and what is your background?

Emily Perlstein: After growing up in New York, I went to USC majoring in public relations and always intended on returning to the city.  I strategically planned my internships to best forge my path into the fashion industry. As fate would have it, I got a part-time job at Intermix during my senior year which changed everything. Clients began asking me if I would come to their homes, edit their closets, shop, and style them. I accidentally fell into personal shopping which is how I met Alana. I loved styling and retail, but something was missing: I craved the business that I was exposed to during my internships. One sunny day, Alana was casually venting about an idea she had for a clothing line: she was passionate about her vision, but was unsure how to start and really wanted someone else to handle the business side of the project, leaving her focus on design. With all of the unfounded confidence of a 25-year-old, I offered to be her business partner. La Detresse was born a year later and the rest is history.

Alana Hadid: Emily and I were both born and raised on the East Coast. I was back and forth to LA, as my father moved here when I was a child, and I always felt like a California girl. After college in Arizona, I moved to LA full-time and started a T-shirt brand called Better Bacon, all the artwork was done by kids with disabilities, and I adored working in fashion. We shut down in 2008 and I worked a lot of  jobs trying to decide what I loved. In 2012, I circled back to fashion and became a personal shopper and stylist. I had all the ideas for a clothing company but business was not my background. Emily was ambitious and really proficient in the things I felt I lacked, I have always said the creatives need to find a business minded partner and I felt I found mine. I made Emily sign an NDA – we still laugh about it now-and we had meetings a day later.

What does your brand name mean and how did you think of it?

EP: Let’s face it, everything sounds chicer in French! Alana and I are obsessed with distressed things: after sharing similar adolescent stories of how both our dads would ask if we paid “extra for the holes” in our clothes, a lightbulb went off. We were like bingo, there is our French play on words.

 AH: I’ve been learning French since I was a child. La Detresse seemed like a cute, tongue-in-cheek way to express ourselves and use our East-Coast sarcasm.

 

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How would you describe the brand aesthetic and what sets it apart?

EP: I would describe our aesthetic as fun, androgynous, wearable, and unique. I think what sets us apart is that we are manufactured in Downtown LA; we never wanted to be mass produced. Every piece is labour intensive: we acid wash, tie-dye, distress, and screen print each item by hand – no two items will ever be the same. I also am very proud of the fact that we are unisex and that guys actually purchase pieces and make up a large percentage of sales. That was something that was very important to us.

AH: We are new: the sweat outfit isn’t new, tie-dye and acid wash aren’t new, but we have taken these comfortable easy basics and we are doing the opposite of what a lot of brands are doing. We have started in loungewear and made that fashion forward, instead of trying to make athleisure now that it’s in style. We saw the market moving and said, how can we move it?

2020 has been the year of the sweatpants and loungewear – how has this affected your brand success?

 EP: We could never have predicted that we would be facing a global pandemic in 2020! As we manufacture in LA, rather than overseas, we could continue manufacturing, albeit at a slower rate, whilst still adhering to CDC guidelines. We definitely saw an uptake on our direct-to-consumer sales. Major retailers also began approaching us, and luckily, we were equipped to meet their demands. It was great that retailers really began looking for knitwear that was elevated and fresh.

AH: We pivoted into knits as a fluke. We started as a denim jacket brand, we did a capsule of tie-dye well before it was the ‘it’ trend, and it had a huge response. When COVID-19 hit, people realised they were wearing sweats all day and wanted some newness. We were so happy to provide that for them.

How do you get inspiration for your designs?

EP: I have to credit Alana for this: at all hours of the day and night she will approach me with something that sounds slightly confusing and she will say, “trust me, it is going to be sick. A few weeks later, a sample will arrive and I will think ‘that really clicked and translated’. Personally, I find inspiration on Tumblr. I consider Tumblr to be a living, breathing, evolving mood board.

AH: I will be inspired by a dream I had, a shoe I saw, a flower, an Instagram post, a saying… I really draw inspiration from life. For our new collection, La Detresse Mania, I was thinking about mental health. Emily and I looked at images, and Sam, my design assistant, and I developed colours and patterns that felt exciting, but also authentic to the brand.

 

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Which style icons inspire you?

EP: It’s interesting, I guess the style icons I really look to for inspiration are for more than just style, also for business and branding. I maintain that authenticity is our strongest currency. In this aspect, I admire Emily Weiss from Glossier, Pia Arrobio from LPA, and Gilda Ambrosio/Giorgia Tordini from The Attico.

AH: For me it’s the people who aren’t afraid to stand out, I love people like that. Anna Dello Russo embodies everything I love about a fashion icon; she’s bold and beautiful in everything from a mini skirt to sweats.

What is your favourite piece from the current collection and how would you style it?

 EP: For me, probably the acid-wash, charcoal sweatpants and the matching hoodie. Both pieces go with literally everything I have in my closet.

AH: I love all the half-and-half pieces.  I really think they are fun and can be worn so many different ways.

Where is home and what are your must-do’s for visitors?

EP: Home will always and forever be New York City. That being said, I have lived in LA for over a decade, so I guess I will provide a bi-coastal guide.

New York:

Eat: JG Melons, Lola Tavern, Shuka, Russ & Daughters, Il Buco, and Jack’s Wife Freida.

Visit: Central Park (my childhood/happy place,) The MET, and The Highline.

LA:

Eat: Dantana’s, Sushi Enya, Marvin, Larchmont Wine & Cheese, Madeo and Taverna Tony’s.

Visit: Malibu, Griffith Observatory, Huntington Gardens, and The Getty Villa.

AH: Home is West Hollywood, I adore my neighbourhood and neighbours.

Eat: Forever and always Marvin. I think I’ve brought 50% of the regulars there, and they have an amazing take out menu now.

Visit: Hike in Topanga, walk in Larchmont.

 

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What’s next for the brand?

EP: I am so proud of our SS21 collection La Detresse Mania. We have so many exciting collaborations and projects in the pipeline. At the end of the day I am grateful and just cannot wait to see what is in store for 2021! I feel like the sky is the limit.

AH: I think we will stay true to our fun La Detresse vibe, we are forever and always an LA brand. You will see a lot of fun exclusives and we always love to drop newness on our site, including the one of kind vintage pieces we have been making, and our anniversary collection that I’m particularly proud of. We are expanding and still happy to be a small female run and operated business.

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