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Vogue: This New Designer Is Making Unisex Statement Pieces That Have L.A. Talking

Man and woman wearing T-shirts by fashion designer Westley Austin ('08)
Interview with Fashion Designer Westley Austin ('08)
Zoe Ruffner

 

Los Angeles–native Westley Austin had almost given up on the fashion industry entirely when he landed upon a small pin at an estate sale with bold wording: I Was Born to Raise Hell. It was a message that resonated with him—and one that, after years of being creatively stifled while designing for big brands, inspired him to finally launch his own eponymous label, a 15-piece collection that is now sold alongside Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Y/Project at L.A.’s Shop Super Street.

“We just want to have fun and create something with a soul,” says the 31-year-old designer. That’s nowhere more apparent than in the feel-good prints that appear throughout the line. There’s the smiley face, which shows up blown out on a slinky, yellow halter top and as an appliqué on white and black T-shirts. Flames—gray, mustard, dusty beige, and tangerine—are also a key player, climbing their way up Austin’s signature raw-edge jackets. “I found it interesting to take these widely used, overexposed signs from pop culture and ask, ‘How can I distort them in a way that seems new and fresh and different than those thousands of times they’ve been used in the past?’ ” he says.

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Photo: Phillip R. Lopez