Early on in Plum Sykes’ latest novel, “Party Girls Die in Pearls: An Oxford Girl Mystery” (Harper: 352 pp., $26.99), readers meet American girl in London Nancy Feinbaum, with her “puffed-up mound of dyed blonde hair” and “green bat-winged sweater, bubblegum pink pedal pushers, a trilby hat and white sneakers.”
As you might have guessed from those sartorial details, Sykes’ book is set in the mid-1980s.
But here and now, Sykes, a Londoner in Los Angeles, has a significantly more timeless look with her brunet hair in a face-framing long bob, just skimming the shoulders of her crease-proof, white, button-down top.
“Burberry lent this to me for the tour,” she said during lunch at Ladurée in Beverly Hills. “But I’ve worn it so much, I really don’t think they’ll want it back.”
Sykes was visiting the City of Angels to promote her “posh, comic murder-mystery,” as she put it, with a slightly unconventional and quite fashion-forward twist on the book tour. Rather than popping into bookstores, the Vogue contributing editor and bestselling author traveled cross-country for book parties at Burberry stores, with other fashion tie-in events taking place at Zac Posen in New York and Chanel in London.
If it appears odd to toast to true crime amid tulle, consider that, like Sykes’ earlier books, “Bergdorf Blondes” and “The Debutante Divorcée,” the clothes in “Party Girls” become characters of their own. Beyond bat-winged sweaters, the book showcases such 1980s iconic pieces as a Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat and plastic Fiorucci jeans. And because the story takes place at Oxford University, where black-tie parties are an essential part of the curriculum, there’s a good helping of gold lamé and taffeta.
Unsurprisingly, on this whirlwind trip to L.A., Sykes said she squeezed in as much shopping as possible with an emphasis on Los Angeles’ laid-back fashion scene. However, there wasn’t enough time to get to all of her favorite haunts. The Getty (Sykes said she’s enamored by the grounds) and hiking Runyon Canyon were out. “This trip, my only walk has been the three blocks from my hotel to Sunset Plaza,” she said. “But at least I have that.” Here, she offers eight of her must-visits when she’s in Los Angeles.
“My first stop is Book Soup, that amazing bookstore on Sunset. Obviously, I went there to make sure they had my book, which they did. They’ve also got such an incredible range of print magazines, including Vogue Bambini, which you cannot get anywhere, but, of course, you can get it at Book Soup.”
“When I’m writing in London, my uniform is basically jeans and some kind of overpriced T-shirt. … You can buy Wildfox in England, but it's very, very expensive there. So when I saw the store with all its pink and little bicycles, I went and spent a fortune. Got lots of stuff for my kids. They’re going to go mental over that really soft fabric they do.”
“I’d never been to the Grove before, and started at Ladurée, which I also love visiting in Paris. When my previous books became paperbacks and needed new cover art, I just e-mailed the publisher a picture of a Ladurée box to use as inspiration.”
“For my uniform, Madewell is amazing for jeans. They’re about half the price of a J Brand — or something similar. To me, the brand is a combination of Los Angeles with a little bit of Paris. I also love the fun, stripey T-shirts.”
“Meredith Melling [co-founder of fashion labels La Marque and La Ligne] told me about this cool vintage wedding dress shop, and I’m going to see it out of interest – not buying anything for me. I’m just looking for the best new shops I can write about for Vogue.”
“It’s a really cool coffee shop. It’s Australian but feels very California. It’s in kind of a shed, right by the Goop offices. They had all these different kinds of drinks, like lavender cappuccinos. Also, avocado toast, which I think is the most amazing thing. You can get it in just a few places in London, but most people still think it’s a bit weird.”