FreeCity, dosa tapped for latest Wear LACMA collection

FreeCity, dosa tapped for latest Wear LACMA collection
FreeCity Wear LACMA T-shirt (FreeCity)

Beloved L.A. brands FreeCity and dosa have been tapped by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to create the fifth edition of the Wear LACMA collection of fashion and accessories inspired by the museum’s permanent collection.

Both brands celebrate the handmade and share a socially responsible outlook.

Equal parts artists collective and hippie chic lifestyle brand, FreeCity was created in 2005 by Nina Garduno and is known for hoodies, sweatpants and T-shirts hand-printed in her L.A. studio with feel-good words and symbols, such as "life, nature, love."  One of Garduno's ongoing projects is a line of T-shirts with the slogan "Artists Wanted" with sales that support national and local creative projects.

Working with artisan partners in India, Burma, Oaxaca and other places, Christina Kim established dosa in 1984 to keep ancient textile traditions alive in modern garments and housewares, many of which are produced in her L.A. factory using recycled or repurposed materials.

The designers were inspired by an unlikely trio of LACMA works. For Garduno, it was a French Baroque-era portrait of the Christian philosopher Saint Augustine holding a flaming heart.

"Mission vision, epiphany, the spark of knowing what to do, being touched by the source, those are all the things I'm hit with when I look at that image," Garduno said of the portrait "Saint Augustine" by Philippe de Champaigne (1645-50). The painting inspired not only the "Artists Wanted LetsGoLACMA" T-shirt ($75) and hoodie ($198) in the Wear LACMA collection, proceeds of which will go toward the conservation of Chris Burden's "Urban Light" sculpture outside the museum, but several other pieces in FreeCity's gospel-themed collection in stores now, Garduno said.

For dosa’s Kim, inspiration came from “Watts Towers” and “Watts Towers With Kite,” two paintings from the 1960s by the late Hollywood actress-painter Gloria Stuart, who is perhaps best known to contemporary audiences as the elder Rose in the 1997 film “Titanic.”

"I didn't know who she was," Kim said of Stuart, explaining that she noticed the painting on a stroll through LACMA's American Wing. "It was more that it was a painting of Watts Towers, which is a big inspiration for dosa.  Like me, [Watts Towers artist] Sam Rodia was an immigrant, and he used recycled and found objects to make a monument that references where he's from," she said.

Kim was so taken with the colorful oil paintings that she created a 10-piece Wear LACMA capsule, including a silk pajama top and pants, organic cotton poplin shell, skirt and men's shirt, silk fraulein dress, Tunisian coat, tote bag, utility case and portfolio ($49 to $1,232).

"I travel so much, people think all my inspiration comes from outside, but LACMA is only minutes away and this was painted by a local artist," Kim said. "I liked the idea of made-in-L.A."

"These two designers bring such a fresh view to these pictures, especially Saint Augustine," said Katherine Ross, creator of the Wear LACMA concept, a veteran of the fashion industry, and the wife of museum director Michael Govan. "It opens up the works to a whole new audience, which is the point."

FreeCity and dosa's fashion items will be sold at the LACMA store and beginning Thursday, with all proceeds benefiting the museum.