It’s no secret that in recent years the creative center of Los Angeles has shifted eastward. Therefore, it was fitting that fashion label Eckhaus Latta — favored by arty crowds with cool-kid cachet — had an intimate Wednesday dinner to celebrate its forthcoming collaboration of outerwear and footwear with footwear brand Ugg.
The whole affair, which took place in Montecito Heights near the Mount Washington and Highland Park neighborhoods, was overseen by Eckhaus Latta’s bi-coastal design duo, New York-based Mike Eckhaus and L.A.-based Zoe Latta, who’s a California native.
“We wanted something that felt truly intimate,” said Eckhaus, wearing a vintage Jean Paul Gaultier women’s vest covered in illustrations of nude men in compromising situations. “We’re used to having a fashion show where you’re in and you’re out. We wanted this to be an experience where you feel cared for.”
Dinner guests made their way to a private hilltop residence to discover one long table strewn with otherworldly place settings. Strange aquatic creatures were in jars alongside bewitching floral centerpieces of elegant, drooping flora and spiky gourds (arrangements were provided by Isa Isa) and on-trend ceramic plates. The entrance music, which was ethereal and unusual, came courtesy of cellist and composer Patrick Belaga, who, in his transparent T-shirt and color-blocked, tie-dyed jeans, embodied Eckhaus Latta’s brand of oddball elan.
The brand event certainly appeared to make the most of its surroundings, with dinner for 40 or so set against the sweeping views of downtown, bathed in a lambent twilight, which slowly faded to darkness dotted with city lights.
“I think it’s difficult to be intellectual and sexy,” said Andrea O’Donnell, president of Ugg, after a seasonal appetizer of tomato and feta salad had been served, all foraged by the Santa Cruz-based caterer Kin & Kitchen.
Speaking of Eckhaus Latta, she said, “I think brands are either clever or they’re sexy, and not many can balance those two competing ends of the fashion spectrum, which I think they do that really well. So it was intriguing to think about what they could bring to Ugg.”
In recent years, Ugg has doubled down on collaborations to inch its way into the fashion consumer’s mind by partnering with brands such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Jeremy Scott and streetwear brand Kith. “What we get with collaborations is a challenge to our own received wisdom. For me, the secret sauce is creativity,” said O’Donnell, adding with a laugh, “Big corporations don’t necessarily like it because it sounds risky and like it’s going to cost a lot of money.”
However, the so-called risks appear to be paying off. Ugg had helped its parent company, Goleta-based Deckers Brands, grow its quarterly fiscal numbers, and, according to a press release from July, Ugg’s brand net sales for the first quarter increased 1.5% to $138.5 million compared with the same period last year.
“Challenging the status quo and being open-minded is important to a healthy business,” O’Donnell said. “Collaborators show you what your brand could stand for in a completely different way. On occasion, around the office, I say, ‘We’re not selling shoes. We’re selling dreams.’ Everyone looks at me like I’m a crazy person . And they’re sort of right.”
“At first we were like, ‘What?’” said Eckhaus of his first thought after being approached by Ugg. “But then we started thinking about it, and it felt like it could make a lot of sense.”
“They weren’t just open but open-minded,” added Latta. “They wanted to see what we could bring to the table and not have it be just some marketing collaboration. There was the full intention of selling it and having people wear it.”
“It was fun to work with a product that is truly iconic,” Eckhaus said. “Like, everyone knows what an Ugg boot is.”
“We’re from two different coasts, and what an Ugg boot in the year 2000 represented, it meant the exact same thing to both of us,” Latta said.
Added Eckhaus, “It was fun to riff on and explore the design vernacular of that, to see how we could tweak it into a language that felt true to us and still true to them.”
The new collaboration, which debuts Sept. 3, will be available at ugg.com, eckhauslatta.com and select retailers, including Nordstrom and Ssense.com.
It features square-toed shearling-lined mules and clogs, which are in line with the brand’s ethos of taking what might be considered awkward or ugly objects and reframing them as ineffably cool or strangely elegant. The shoes will range from $295 to $525, while four pieces of limited-edition outerwear (think capacious shearling coats) will cost $1,995 to $5,995.
Lately Eckhaus Latta has made headway in the fashion industry, turning out critically lauded shows with an earthy and sensual aesthetic that serve as a counterpoint to the industry’s overall obsessions with streetwear and luxe handbags. In recent seasons, the brand also has added more retailers to its list.
Dinner guests included the Haim sisters, artist Michael Bailey-Gates, model Jacob Bixenman and musician Empress Of. They mixed and mingled as the night continued and downtown glittered in the distance. Some guests also were vaping and chatting while wearing not only shoes from the collaboration but also wide-leg, oxidized-print jeans, crocheted dresses and patchwork T-shirts from Eckhaus Latta. All of which looked effortlessly cool on the frames of the hipster crowd.
Latta, dressed in a red knit tank dress, surveyed the scene with approval. “I mean, yes, there’s a cult vibe here,” she said, smiling. “And I adore that.”