Clothing That Takes to the Glittering Stage
See those flashy threads worn by the band on MTV. See that splashy magazine layout. If the clothes are shiny, sequined or faux furry, they’re apt to be Serious. To be a superstar or look like one is the idea behind Serious, which opened its first store, on Melrose Avenue, in November.
The eye-catching fashions began with the vision of Magnus Walker, 30, a lanky Englishman with disheveled blond dreadlocks who got his first taste of the fashion business in 1991, when he started making floppy velvet hats and selling them on the Venice boardwalk.
He jumped into clothing design in 1993. It was a trial-and-error process for Walker, who set up shop in Venice and taught himself how to make clothes by taking apart his favorite pants and shirts, making patterns from the pieces and cutting and sewing them in new, outrageous fabrics. A few childhood sewing lessons from his mom came in handy, too.
As for market research, he ignored trends and went with his own taste, which evolved from his love for rock ‘n’ roll. For fun, he named his new company Serious because, he says, his take on fashion “wasn’t serious at all. It was playful, funky stuff.”
Soon after launching Serious, he met Karcu Caid, who goes by Hoochie, a designer he’d run into at trade shows. Hoochie, 32, decided to ditch her own name line, Hoochie Clothing, and team up with Walker. Now they are
co-designers and a couple.
They started Serious, says Walker, with basically $100, the ability to find cheap yet cool fabrics and a lot of drive and creativity. In 1995, they moved their business from Venice to a warehouse in downtown’s garment district, now Serious’ headquarters, where they employ eight people full time.
Swirl velvet, glossy patent leather and sequined fabrics explode off the racks of the warehouse, where the decor is vintage furniture and animal prints. Color and texture are the keys to being Serious. Hoochie explains that Walker has a keen eye for finding fabrics, even those never intended for the world of fashion: “That swirl velvet that he’s used for years is a car upholstery fabric. Most people who were taught or schooled in the fashion world would have passed that right up because it’s for cars. But he just went, ‘It’s great!’ and it’s been a staple for everything--jackets, pants, wallets even, shoes now.”
The payoff: Clothes with a no-holds-barred attitude, perfect for clubbing or onstage. Lack of schooling in fashion has been no barrier, Hoochie says.
“It’s an advantage because you’re not rigid in your way of thinking. You assume everything works or find a way to make it work.”
The rock ‘n’ roll identity “became what Serious was about, and it took off,” Walker says. He and Hoochie name certain designs after favorite performers. “We look at our line and go, ‘That looks like something Mick Jagger might have worn in the ‘70s,’ or ‘That’s Guns N’ Roses--early ‘80s,’ ” he says. “We’ve got a Joan Jett top and a Debbie Harry top. It’s all rooted in music.”
The bands, in turn, are discovering that Serious is what they want to wear. More and more musicians--including Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Social Distortion and Belly--have been spotted in Serious. Ryan Roxie, guitar player in Alice Cooper’s band, turned the whole band onto Serious clothes for its current Rock ‘n’ Roll Carnival tour. Roxie says people comment on his clothes all the time.
“I think I’m more known for that [leopard fur] hat than my guitar playing now,” he says. “Hopefully, people know that I do practice between outfit changes.”
The mix of fashion and music has led the designers to start Club Serious, a once-a-month happening at Moguls nightclub in Hollywood that features classic over-the-top rock, glam and punk. For opening night in July, they held a rare Serious fashion show. While Walker believes most fashion shows “always seem kind of uptight,” his Serious show was anything but.
No traditional runway here. Walker and Hoochie gathered up their favorite club girls and rock stars for a rowdy onstage party featuring singer Poe, former Faster Pussycat front man Taimie Down, band members from Extra Fancy, Touchcandy, Popism and Live #9 and outlaw radio DJ Riki Rachtman. All were dressed to the hilt--in Serious, of course. Still, Walker is reluctant to do fashion shows. “It’s kind of an ego thing and we never felt like we needed to push our look on people.”
Pushing is not on the Serious agenda. The news is spreading by word-of-mouth and more and more bands, from White Zombie to Chris Isaak to rap artists, are coming to Serious, though Walker says he has never asked a band to wear his clothes. “It seems like the bigger we get, the more bands want our stuff.”
Serious has moved into the specialized market once dominated by designers such as Lip Service and Trip. All sell through trendy boutiques rather than mainstream mall outlets. Serious is carried in 300 stores nationwide, five in Los Angeles including Red Balls on Melrose and the Sinister Store on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. Now, with the Serious boutique on Melrose, the designers “are able to showcase our entire line,” Walker says. “You can do more creative stuff when you have your own store.” Serious shoppers will find most pieces in the $40 to $100 range.
Keys to Serious’ quick popularity have been its crossover appeal and sense of fun and versatility. It has become a favorite among band stylists as well as magazines, whose artists regularly call in search of clothes for video shoots, ads and photo essays on everything from night life to extreme sports.
But Serious clothing’s true niche is its subculture following. It has become popular club wear for young people who go for the stylish but tough look of sequined shirts and leopard print smoking jackets. The techno-rave crowd favors the shiny plastic mini skirts and furry halter tops. For those preferring the gothic look, there is plenty of black velvet and lace. Other popular lines include the ‘60s race car / pit crew look, the Evel Knievel-inspired leather pants and jackets with stars and semiformal suits in colorful textured fabrics.
Says Hoochie: “The line is so big we can’t help but have something that appeals to almost everybody.”
Walker likes to think of his clothing as “flash.” Granted, not everyone is a club crawler or guitar hero, and it might take those a little on the edge to wear such a style. But Hoochie sees no reason why the “average” person couldn’t pick up some Serious threads.
She asks: “Why not dress up for a night and feel special?”