Dee Larsen, Designer
Dee Larsen is a fashion badass. Born and raised in The Bay, this Nasty Gal Veteran is beyond experienced and currently making a name for herself as the Collaboration Queen! Just in case you're in doubt, we'll drop this little tidbit on you - Dee studied at the same school in Paris that Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld attended. GAH! Jealous? Well, you shouldn't be because this lady is about as down to earth as they get and friendly to boot. Today Lisa Says Gah brings you all the way to LA for a look at Dee's career and the advice she has for those interested in a similar route. Enjoy!
LSG: Hi, Dee! Can you share the basics of your background with us? Where are you from? How long have you been in the LA Area?
My early years were spent roaming around the Bay Area. My parents were never married, and both lived very bohemian and transient lifestyles. I cruised around on dad’s motorcycle through the South Bay and spent a period with my mom in Oakland. But, it was San Francisco that I fell in love with, and I made it my goal to end up there. I spent summers in high school taking the art and fashion courses the Academy of Art offered then applied for a scholarship and moved straight to S.F. the day I graduated high school. Throughout my life and during college I never really left the West Coast, so when I had an opportunity to study in Paris, I hopped on a plane and spent a year there. After that, I came back to SF and my friend Sophia Amoruso, who I’d met when the early days of internet stalking on Myspace, told me she was moving her company (Nasty Gal) to LA. She made Southern California sound so seductive that I couldn’t resist packing my bags and migrating down. I got another call from her when I arrived telling me she wanted to launch Nasty Gal’s in-house label and asked me to join the design team. I didn’t hesitate. That move was almost four years ago, and I’m still in LA!
LSG: Your latest project is with Kendall and Kylie Jenner for Topshop. Collaboration seems to be your specialty. How has working so closely with brands and individuals influenced your career?
I just don’t see why you should limit yourself to one dimension of thinking. People are what inspire me most of all, and we live in a culture so filled with different backgrounds and points of view. The best results come when you’re bouncing ideas back and forth with people who inspire and challenge you.
LSG: Do you have any personal/professional side projects? Can we expect a namesake line anytime in the near future?
I stay busy when I’m not at work! My friends keep me inspired, whether it’s collabing on photo projects or sketching, painting, cooking, etc.
Creating my own line is something I definitely want to do. I have a concept I would love to work toward. However, I do like the anonymity of how I work now, so my project would have its own name and identity separate from mine.
LSG: A lot of young people are interested in fashion and fantasize about being a designer. What does the reality of succeeding as one actually look like?
I think what’s most important is never to be complacent and always be willing to get your hands dirty. Also, be aware of all the opportunities out there, especially considering how powerful social media is today - we all have access to it. Send out applications all you can, build your portfolio/website/Tumblr/Instagram/Pinterest and keep it updated and the content flowing, and network. Utilize the tools you have available to you.
LSG: What advice would you share with people just getting into a career as a designer?
Take risks and opportunities as they come and know your worth, but never be above doing anything. Most people don’t want to work with an asshole. Be kind. Be humble. And don’t stress yourself into a waking coma, because then you’ll become an asshole whether or not you intend to.
LSG: How do you think San Franciscans and Los Angelenos approach style differently? Weather is a factor, but what about the general ethos of each city?
Well, San Francisco has certainly changed a lot since I left. With the expansion of Google, salaries and rent have increased and pushed most of the younger, artistic, gutter-punks and heshers out of the city and into Oakland and beyond. When I was there, it was still expensive, but we would pair clothes we bought by the pound in the Mission with the then-so-exciting arrival of H&M. And sometimes splurge on contemporary and fashion forward finds at places like Harputs Market. But the climate is so different, always so windy, hazy, and cold that at the end of the day you just want to be warm and comfortable while you’re taking the Muni. LA’s vibe is a lot more relaxed, a lot warmer. Here people seem to be most concerned with the quality of life and health. They have fun with fashion, and want to look and feel good. It seems more of an effortless cool. Cool, but not too cool.
LSG: What are you obsessed with right now? (Anything! Food, shoes, music, exotic carnivorous plants...)
I’m obsessed with Amy Schumer and @firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Schumer is a badass, a genius, and the type of female I admire. Unabashedly herself. I’m also obsessed with food, music, and travel.
LSG: Is there anything in LA you recommend we check out while here?!!?
There’s so much in LA to see! I recommend you take a drive through beautiful Angeles Crest, walk around the Arts District and grab a bite at Zinc or a drink and honey glazed brussels sprouts at Cerveteca!
LSG: Last but not least! What is your astrological sign and do you care at all about it?
I’m something on the cusp of Scorpio and Sagittarius? I have no idea what it means, and I’m not sure that the alignment of the stars on the day of my birth has anything to do with my personality. I’d attribute that more toward how I was raised and life experience. Horoscopes are fun though. I love to read about all the times of year I’m going to run into an obstacle, make or lose dollars, or find unexpected romance in a far off and exotic destination.