L.A. designer Raquel Allegra puts the final touches on upcoming collections and a new store
You won’t find Los Angeles designer Raquel Allegra at Coachella this year, grooving to the bands and looking for those cool girls wearing her tie-dye and gauzy jersey dresses.
Right now, Allegra is too busy overseeing colliding seasons of collections and the opening of her first retail store to make the trek to the desert.
“I’m just wrapping up holiday,” Allegra says on an April morning, sitting on a stool at a work table in her sun-lighted downtown L.A. office. “And I’m in the thick of designing pre-spring and then all of the long-lead things for next spring. So it’s a point where there are three seasons happening at once.”
Her growing business has kept her away from the festival the last couple of years, and she explains the demands on her time by saying, “Now I’m doing a different thing.” Plus, she says the festival has changed from when she first started going years ago. “The first time I went to Coachella, it was so long ago you could be in the artists’ area — no problem. You can’t do that now.”
By fashion standards, Allegra flies somewhat under the radar, but consumers and fashion insiders know her effortless, chic style well. She shows each season in New York, and a recent review on Vogue.com raved about Allegra’s fall collection, noting, “Women like Raquel Allegra are part of the reason that fashion has fallen so hard for California.”
“It’s not a bohemian brand, but it definitely speaks to a bohemian, those who are a little more on the edgy side,” says Allegra, who grew up among the artists and hippies of Berkeley.
Her brand has serious commercial credibility, and her wares are available at L.A. boutiques such as Ron Herman at Fred Segal, Madison and Lost & Found as well as Heist in Venice and Elyse Walker in the Pacific Palisades. They also are sold at Barneys New York stores nationwide and Harvey Nichols in London and Merci in Paris and through online retailers Net-A-Porter and Shopbop and her website, raquelallegra.com.
Allegra got her start in fashion about a decade ago, working on the sales floor at Barneys. That’s when customers noticed the reworked vintage pieces and deconstructed T-shirts she wore. Later, she invited some of her clientele to her apartment for a shopping party. “That day changed my life,” she says. “I thought, ‘I had so much fun. I don’t want to stop doing this.’”
Her clients wanted more of her shredded T-shirts and tie-dye pieces. “No one was doing tie-dye then,” Allegra says — at least, not in the way she was doing it.
The genesis for her gauzy jersey styles originally came early in her career when, seeking a source for T-shirts to shred and dye, she ended up going to a used-clothing wholesaler with a stock of vintage white tees from local prisons.
“These feel amazing. They’re thin. They’re washed to perfection,” she recalls. “I just decided to make something beautiful out of what I was touching.”
Eventually, she began experimenting with jersey and found the tie-dye expert who has worked with her ever since. Allegra and her team do their own textile colors, and she has introduced linen, cashmere, French lace and silk into complete collections that now include tops and bottoms, sweaters, dresses and leather pieces and a slouchy trench coat. (Pieces in her collection generally range in price from $170 to $795.)
“The trial and error of creating something new really affects what we do,” Allegra says. “I don’t do things in a traditional way. I don’t go to a fabric mill or vendor and pick out the colors that they’ve projected for the season.”
In that way, she sees each new season as an evolution of the proceeding one; though in her upcoming fall collection, she says she turned a page with bolder and richer hues than with her spring selections.
Soon shoppers will be able to get a deeper look at her work and style. In May, Allegra plans to open her first brick-and-mortar store on Third Street in West Hollywood, a location she says she prefers over Rodeo Drive or Melrose Place. She says the shop is an opportunity to create a world that houses all the clothing each season. She’s been working with architects for a year to get the ambience right. “I want people to walk in and feel like they want to hang out, that they want to stay a while,” she says.
Now looking back on her career and her successes, she says it’s amazing that she once thought she would end up a shopgirl.
“And then something changed. I don’t know that I was born to design a collection,” Allegra says, “but one step led to the next and to the next. I felt like I could just figure it out.”