On this week’s show, DJ (design journalist) Maura Lucking interviews fashion designer Bryan Sanderson. Walking down the sunny, tree-lined stretch of Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz near Barnsdall Park, you…
On this week’s show, DJ (design journalist) Maura Lucking interviews fashion designer Bryan Sanderson.
Walking down the sunny, tree-lined stretch of Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz near Barnsdall Park, you could almost miss the narrow glass façade of Weltenbuerger, one of the city’s most unique and genre-defying storefronts. With its sculptural plywood forms, surrealist mannequins, and textiles and weavings draping the front window, it’s not immediately clear what you have encountered. Weltenbuerger, which means “global citizen” in German, is designer Bryan Sanderson’s brainchild and laboratory. The store, which began in Sanderson’s hometown of Stuttgart and migrated to Los Angeles three years ago, carries wide array of vintage clothing, a selection of progressive German and American fashion and accessories lines and, most recently, Sanderson’s own collection of minimalist but super spirited apparel, W///.
The look and feel of the store is carefully edited and clearly owes much to Sanderson’s specific perspective as an international transplant. In my interview with Sanderson, he admits that moving to Los Angeles has strongly influenced his aesthetic, though not in the ways one might assume. Rather than adopting laid-back bohemianism or pop postmodernism, the effect is subtler. His own line leans generously on its natural materials—raw silk, linen, bemberg and cotton poplin—that he says are inspired by the landscape and textile traditions of the city, while also echoing the importance of high quality fabrics to the German avant-garde, in the tradition of designers like Jil Sander. Combined with the boxy construction and stately draping of the pieces, mostly women’s dresses, you get the feeling that they might fit in at a gallery opening or on a new age commune.
Sanderson says he immediately saw a gap in the market here for a more global look, from club kids looking for fresh pieces in a low price point, to stylish older women who got all his obscure fashion references. So he decided to play on the tension between his German stylistic roots and local sensibilities. Though Sanderson has moved around town from Hollywood Boulevard to Abbot Kinney, his current shop, a narrow two-story lofted space, has the feel of a gallery, high-end boutique and designer’s studio rolled into one. The entire second floor is dedicated to vintage, from ethnic-printed harem pants and Moroccan textiles, to 90s-era linen shift dresses from high street brands like J.Jill and Liz Claibourne looking suddenly chic in the context of Sanderson’s spartan aesthetic, to rare pieces from cult Japanese designers like Issey Miyake that go for more than the new clothing downstairs. The most important thing, says Sanderson, is that the vintage collection not look overtly “retro,” but simple and timeless.
The boutique features items from local favorite designers like Jesse Kamm, Ermie, LD Tuttle and Tanya Aguiñiga, who get a lift in the context of a more international collection. Aguiñiga’s dip-dyed rope necklaces, for instance, a staple in the city’s boutiques, seemed instantly more sophisticated than crafty paired with a minimal tent dress. The significance of selection and styling in the design process isn’t talked about as often as the process of physically making new products, but the impact of Sanderson’s curatorial skills shouldn’t be overlooked.
As far as the W/// line, Sanderson is perhaps a bit more of a Los Angeles guy than he would like to admit. Democratic design comes up again and again in our conversation – democracy in price point, in size and fit, in accessibility. He doesn’t come from a formal design background, and has no interest in participating in traditional fashion shows or launching collections. Instead, the store is his hybrid studio and event space – on an average day, you might walk in to find him pinning a new shirt, or have him approach you to ask for input on a leather shoe sample.
Just don’t ask him to take any of it too seriously – “mostly I just hang out here listening to techno and having fun,” Sanderson laughs. “I can’t imagine calling the people who walk in clients or customers… I’m not a doctor or anything.”