"Bohemian isn't a trend; it's a lifestyle."
That's the motto upon which L.A. designer Cynthia Vincent has staked her decade-old brand Twelfth Street, named after the street she grew up on in La Verne. The brand is known for its tribal print maxidresses and rompers, serape-stripe cardigans, rugged short western boots and gladiator wedge sandals, all with a multi-culti, beach-and-canyon vibe.
In a city where designers can come and go in a few seasons, Vincent is a fashion success story. She attended L.A.'s Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, winning the Silver Thimble Award while she was there. In 1993, she started her first line, St. Vincent. She also opened a retail store, Aero & Co. in Los Feliz, to feature local independent designers.
By 2001, Vincent had moved on as the founding designer of the successful contemporary label Vince. She left two years later with plans to take a sabbatical from fashion at an ashram in India. But Fern Mallis came calling. Then the executive director of New York fashion week's production company 7th on Sixth, Mallis presented an offer to sponsor a runway show for Vincent at the group's first L.A. Fashion Week event.
"I knew I would have killed myself if I didn't do it, so I went to the ashram for 14 days instead of 14 months, took my life savings, which was about $30,000, and started Twelfth Street," Vincent says.
She's been on an upward trajectory ever since, creating a niche in the contemporary market for her clothing collection, then adding shoes and bags in 2005. Now she does about $12 million in annual sales, and the collection, priced from around $98 for a clutch to $995 for a leather moto jacket, sells at Barneys New York, ShopBop.com, CynthiaVincent.net and other stores. In recent years, Vincent has designed capsule lines for Target and QVC and opened a boutique in New York City.
The Twelfth Street label has attracted a steady stream of famous fans along the way, including Gwenyth Paltrow, Beyoncé, Jessica Simpson, Kate Hudson, Miley Cyrus and Rachel Bilson.
To celebrate 10 years of Twelfth Street, Vincent will be releasing an anniversary collection of celebrity and customer favorites over the next few months. First up are sweaters, including a black-and-white blanket sweater coat ($380) and a cozy "Log Cabin" waist-tie cardigan ($363). Next, she's thinking about another store, this one in L.A. The only question? Where to put it.
"I was driving home from my office downtown to my home in Silver Lake, and I realized that it's really the neighborhoods that inspire me," she says. Echo Park, Venice and Topanga Canyon are all source material for prints in the Resort collection hitting stores in October and including a scarf emblazoned with a map of L.A.
The tag line on the scarf? "Los Angeles, I am yours."