When I pull up to the gas station a few meters from Karla’s doorstep, three men are being held at gunpoint by police men. They’re kneeling on the floor and facing the side wall, hands behind their heads. A few cop cars – those cool black and white ones you see in movies – are strategically positioned around them so they won’t run. I have no idea what they might have done wrong but it’s a scary sight and I’m immediately worried for Karla’s safety. “What do you parents think of your living in this neighborhood?” I ask her with urgency when I walk in the door of her second-floor apartment. “This is Los Angeles!” she shrugs. “It’s not a dangerous neighborhood. We just wanted to live somewhat close to the city because my best friend (who lives with me) is starting her semester at UCLA. When a family friend told us he was renting his place, we liked it so we moved in a week after. I love how I’m a little bit away from Hollywood, yet everything is within a five mile radius.”
Karla Deras turned 22-years old last week. She grew up in Simi Valley and moved to Los Angeles about three months ago. She recently graduated from FIDM with a degree in Apparel Manufacturing but when I ask her what she plans to do with her future, many different directions pop up at once. For one, Karla has that enormously successful blog, Karla’s Closet. She started documenting and photographing her daily outfits and inspirations in April of 2008. And like many other great bloggers, she’s had the good fortune of benefitting a big deal from her website. Her personal highlights are the bag she designed for Coach and her appearance in an Elie Saab video. “Whatever other projects I do in the future,” she shares,”I will always try to blog just because I enjoy sharing my thoughts and adventures in fashion.” The blog has opened a lot of doors which she’ll surely use when looking for a job. But for now she’s still working it out in her head. “I honestly get new ideas and dreams every day. Everything from designing a jewelry collection to owning a Mexican restaurant.”
When it comes to vintage however, Karla has made up her mind. “I love everything about vintage fashion!” she says resolutely. “Absolutely everything, I’m serious! Even if it’s a certain style or era I don’t like, I can still appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of vintage clothing. I don’t really like all those “vintage-inspired” brands out there because you know it will never be as good as the original.” She describes her personal style as “feminine, sassy, and classic but not. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.” For the main part of our afternoon together, I take Karla shopping to two of Los Angeles’ largest vintage stores, which happen to be just a block away from each other on La Brea Avenue. Our first stop is The Way We Wore, a 2-floor treasure trove of vintage categorized by era (on the ground floor) and by designer (on the 2nd floor). It’s not cheap but it’s beyond inspiring. And just one minute up the road we find Golyester, with less designer vintage but more playful, retro clothing and accessories. Again, not cheap but heaps of fun! “I had so much fun playing dress up in extravagant gowns, cropped straw tops and plastic cherry shoes! I can’t believe how many times I’ve driven past those shops and never popped in. By the way, I am still dreaming about that Christian Dior dress and those super heavy jeweled earrings…” Sigh… so am I.