What started as an upgrade to a t-shirt drawer, ending up being another enviable wave of an iconic fashion designer’s keen eye for creating trends. As one of the forces behind the uber-successful launch of the Roxy female surf brand decades ago, along with designs for Quicksilver and Gotcha, Lissa Zwahlen just wanted everyday clothes that compliment and reflect her life.
The result was Aquarius Cocktail Clothing (AqC) made of lived-in silks that are seasonless and go from day to night or as Zwaheln describes it, “Relaxed but with an edge. The perfect expression of West Coast lifestyle.” Add to that the fan-favorite ReWork collection featuring one-of-a-kind bucket hats made from recycled beach towels and lined with vintage Hawaiian shirts that are definitely conversation pieces.
We had the chance to chat with the L.A. based stylist and designer in her pop-up shop at the Platform in Culver City recently about the creation of this brand and where she draws inspiration around the globe.
Founder-designer Lissa Zwahlen
How did you come up with the name for your new brand?
I put my two favorite words together and it sounded pretty good.
Where do you source most of the recyclable materials for the hats and clothing?
Sourcing materials for the ReWork collection is one of the most satisfying things I do in a day. It’s like going on an Easter-egg hunt, you never know what you’ll find or where you’ll find it. I’ve had some of the best pieces shipped from Australia, Germany, Sweden and Italy.
There are a few online sites I comb through on Saturday mornings, in doing so have formed relationships with some vendors who I now work with on direct sourcing.
I also have a close relationship with a local vintage dealer who pulls specific items in bulk- he’s got a great eye and deep understanding of the vintage clothing market.
Aquarius Cocktail space at Platform, Culver City
Can you tell us how the industry has changed since you helped launch Roxy?
The Fashion industry has evolved dramatically from the early days of Roxy. So many brands are just gone or have morphed into some licensing entity. The Surf Industry as we knew it has evaporated, as have the big trade shows that supported it. The apparel industry overall has fragmented dramatically. There are so many sweet niches now and less single dominant players, which I find to be exciting and much more interesting for the consumer.
Most notably the barrier to entry in starting a clothing brand is gone. It’s beyond easy to source materials, build a website from which to sell from and promote products via social media. Anyone with an idea along with the will to make it happen can find some level of success.
Where do you like to go for creative inspiration?
For Creative inspiration, I don’t have a go-to source, and with the lock-down it’s been super limited getting out. That said, I’m ALWAYS observing. Now that we are back on the streets, my next stop is a table at Balthazar [in New York] to people-watch for a few hours. They put tables out on the sidewalk and I hope they keep them there!
I look for color combinations in strange places, I can’t tell you how many museum passes I’ve saved for their color or graphic layout.
Above: Tokyo Shibuya District
What are some of your favorite shopping cities in the world and why?
Tokyo – I’ve been shopping in Tokyo since the early days of Roxy. It blows my mind the way the kids put things together, like a classic stripe boating shirt with a Little Bo Peep pair of shorts and a baseball cap. Classic and fantasy at once. It really opened up my thinking on how to mix things up. Favorite stops are Tokyo Hands, Hollywood Ranch Market, and Alley-ways off Shibuya station.
New York, East Village’ish – There are always new indie spots to discover here with BODE makes me crazy, as does Dear Rivington(vintage Commes and Yojhi pieces) and Abraço for a macchiato and black olive shortbread to start the day.
Above: Central London
Do you have a ‘go-to’ for travel gear or accessories before a big trip?
A pair of trainers. I hit the streets the minute I land so I love a fresh pair of Nikes (with gel inserts) to start a trip with. They are chic paired with anything and can take the miles with style. I’m also loving a fanny pack worn as a crossbody bag. Phone, Sunglasses, lip balm all fit. Done.
What is one item or product that you can’t travel without?
Two things: Goe oil and Tylenol PM. I panic if I don’t have one or the other. Goe oil: I love the versatility of this classic product. A single lovely silver tube can be your moisturizer, face cream and hair gel and it smells amazing – so there’s perfume too! Tylenol PM- no explanation necessary.