Turning the Other Chic

By Rebekah Sager

Rather than flipping through magazines or surfing channels in search of style tips, three local fashionistas are setting trends of their own. Finding sartorial inspiration in the most unlikely places, these twentysomethings have re-imagined Baja off-roading as racing-style jumpers, life in Japan as Etsy pop art and Grandma's wardrobe as retro chic.

 

Grace Under Pleather

At just 24, Pacific Beach native Jennafer Grace already has a loyal fan base. The clothing designs her followers covet most are her pleather leggings, sweetheart dresses (with a signature heart cut-out in the back), fashion turbans and 1970s-inspired kaftans.

Grace describes her pieces as "form-conscience silhouettes that look vintage." Her fall 2011 line, comprised mostly of printed knit textiles not commonly found in fabric stores, exhibits a '70s bohemian influence and a knack for using classic wovens in her separates. "Mixing and matching layers and patterns are a must," she says.

Grace's work reflects a young lifetime of cultural crosscurrents. Raised by her father and grandmother in a 1960s California ranch house, she began sewing classes at age 12. Within two years, she was making swimsuits and purses and selling them in local surf shops.

Her growing entrepreneurship took a hairpin turn when she accompanied her dad to Mexico to watch him race in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 off-road contests.

"My girlfriends came with us and wore these sexy racing suits I'd made for them," Grace says. "We set up a booth and sold these crazy jumpers to the women in the audience."

After high school, while attending San Diego's Fashion Careers College, Grace applied discipline to her skills and developed fashion-world influences. Today, she most admires the classic functionality of Diane von Furstenberg, the envelope-pushing imagination of Marc Jacobs and the understated sexuality of Yves Saint Laurent. "They aren't afraid to have fun with their lines," she says.

Grace sells her clothing at Cecilia Boutique in Mission Hills, Kyss in Carlsbad, Bad Madge in South Park, and online through jennafergrace.com, among other websites. She styled and made the garments for the last three music videos by local musician PHAERO, most recently "Queen of the Nile."

Downplaying her success, Grace says, "I'm innovative, in the sense that I make creative decisions based on what I have available."

 

Hello Kelli

A clothing designer, graphic artist and blogger, Kelli Murray finds creative haven in everything childlike. Her paintings, sketches and stationery reflect innocence and simplicity; she even draws cute animals.

"My work harkens to my childhood," says Murray, 26, whose blog, kellimurray.com, is linked to prominent online hubs Bloglovin' and Lookbook.Nu (and gets about 2,000 hits a day). "I'm inspired by memories of summers spent in Wisconsin with my family, people who live in log cabins and little girls wearing fox hats."

Murray also draws creatively from her time spent in the street-fashion capital of Harajuku, Japan. "The Japanese aesthetic resonates with me-it's very childlike, fun and playful. Think Hello Kitty, but more me."

A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in L.A., Kelli is the daughter of Kevin Murray, founder of Jedidiah, a local surf-inspired apparel brand. Although she's a natural fit as the company's design director (where she goes by her married name, Larson), she stresses that it is just her job. Her art, which is sold online through Etsy.com, and her blog, where she posts illustrations and photos of herself in fantastically hip outfits, comprise who she really is.

Having just had a baby, yet still looking svelte, Murray has added motherhood-her newest passion-to her blog.

"A lot of blogs focus on just fashion or art or lifestyle, but mine is kind of a mashup," she says. "I post about not only what I'm doing, but all the things that inspire me."

 

Fun as Hecht

Stylist Erica Ashley Hecht is a big '80s fan.

"I love the color, flash, geometric shapes and gold-and I love the belts," she says. "I like to challenge myself to make it all wearable so people don't shun it. It's a fun era."

Hecht's EA Vintage (eavintageshop.com) specializes in '80s and other vintage styles because, she explains, they are "one-of-a-kind." Her prized clothing possession, in fact, is a drapy, two-toned silk dress by Anne Klein , complete with belt. But it's staying in the closet today.

"I'm wearing TOMS shoes, a pair of Joe's jeans I found in a Goodwill bulk bin and a $9 top from Urban Outfitters," she says with a laugh.

Less than a year ago, Hecht was living in Miami when Rancho Santa Fe philanthropist and personal stylist Lena Evans, a former Hollywood executive, spotted her in New York Magazine, which named her one of the "Most Stylish People at New York Fashion Week." Evans called Hecht and told her she would mentor her if she headed west.

Soon after, Hecht arrived in San Diego with one of the largest collections of vintage clothing in the city. Evans assisted her with branding and marketing-including the name EA Vintage.

"Lena even helped me fund my first pop-up boutique, which she had at her home in Rancho," Hecht says. "Now, I do them one to two times a month at any location I can find."

Hecht also dabbles in closet organization and personal shopping. (Before leaving Florida, she styled Marysol Patton of The Real Housewives of Miami.) And she's always on the lookout for pieces that are extremely wearable and unique.

Says Hecht: "Every person I meet is an opportunity to find vintage clothing."

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