Los Angeles is an inelegant city. Men are denim-sheathed and graphic-teed, women affect a passing familiarity with Milan. Stylistically LA is compelling only for its detachment from reality and a lingering, intangible glamour from the days when everything there was mercifully shot in black and white. Appropriately, its most important fashion export is Rick Owens, a designer as devoid of colour and exacting in cut as most discerning twenties Hollywood auteur.
Yet there is another LA that should capture the imagination. An LA of tribalism and exploitation, of gritty creativity . That place is South Central, and it is from there that Dork Dozier, budding couturier and inspiration to West Coast music royalty, hails. Currently ensconced in a Park Lane hotel as the travelling inspiration to rapper and TV presenter Will.I.Am, Dork can usually be spied bounding Sohowards, ever immaculately turned out, whether with a roll of fabric or a girl on his arm, cutting a dash like a black Beau Brummell, Dork's chosen medium is neck-wear, specifically bow-ties. "I wanted to take men back to looking dope. Something as simple as a bowtie transforms what else you wear." His creations are much more than the staid, if asymmetrically tied, bows worn by would-be enfant terribles from the BAFTAS to Sunset Boulevard, but rather hand stitched flights of fancy in the most flamboyant cloths, boasting embellishments that would make Galliano blush.
"A bow tie shouldn't be hot pink suede paisley with a gold clip, it shouldn't, but it's time for more fun. Why just plaid, why just houndstooth? I could never find the bowties I wanted, either they were plain or the wrong fabric. So I took them apart and made my first bowtie from furry cheetah print." Dork has enlisted clothes horses from Nicki Minaj who sports his bowties on her thighs like garters, to Marilyn Manson who plucked Dork from the front row at a Vivienne Westwood show and collared him, demanding he make him a green velvet bespoke number.
Whilst many a designer can spew platitudes about their use of fuchsia, magenta or aquamarine, Dork attaches an importance to colour that is redolent of Alexander McQueen's tartan creations that evoke the violence of warring Scottish clans. "In LA you have to watch what colours you wear. Because if you wear blue, even if you're not a Crip, you can give reasons for a Blood who would wanna mess with you. Now's its become even more than red and blue, Grape Street Crips wear purple, if you wear orange that's Hoover crips, you'd even get Playboy Crips that wear pink, it's weird. In South Central colour's been taken to the next level."
Dork has a mentor in Jeremy Scott, a fellow Angelino noted for his kaleidoscopic output. He also has something of an idol in seminal 80s painter, the late Jean Michel Basquiat, who coincidentally wore his hair rather like Mr Dozier. Basquiat made art with Andy Warhol with the pair famously defacing each others' paintings, and whilst Dork and Jeremy have so far only collaborated on videos, the parallels are obvious. "Basquiat was in his own world, his individuality inspired me to push my individuality. With Jeremry he's a designer, I'm a designer, he's white, I'm black. Andy Warhol was white, Basquiat was black. He was young, he was hungry, he wanted to make it, I'm young, I'm hungry and I want to make it."
"Growing up I was the only one to shoot for my own individuality, back in the day I would dress like my cousins. They gangbanged, they were in the streets and I would get mistaken for that, that wasn't the life I wanted, so I would just imagine things. Colour and style for me is a whole other entrance into life. But it wasn't that easy, I was at the worst high school in LA, it was Blood territory, and you'd dare not wear blue, or purple." That didn't stop Dork though, ever innovating with forbidden hues. "I would wear every colour. I've been tested a couple of times, but I gained my own respect. I wore blue in a different way from how a gangster would wear it, so they'd be like 'I can't get a him on that, I can't press him.' I'd pop a blue collar out, or put purple laces in orange shoes, rock blue suspenders."
It was this early experimenting with the male siIhouette and Dork's reinterpreting of the classic mobster-influence of sharp cut and pronounced posture that led him to design in order to transform the environment around him. "I want to take men back to tailoring", he reflects, minutely straightening his lapels before preparing to venture back out to the street.
"Whether that's slim-fit pants or zoot suits. People, paticularly in LA, are too casual, too laid back. Even just a bowtie changes you, it changes how you move, it makes you confident. Bowties for me are a first canvas on which I can express myself." Quite, as our leather clad model points out, languidly twirling her plaited handbag cord, Hermès began by making whips.
Words – Sigmund Oakeshott