Step through the looking glass with editor-cum-designer Melissa Coker's line, worthy of a tall tale, or two

L.A. Designers // Maud Deitch // 09/29/11
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By Magda Wosinska

Melissa Coker (L) with musician and muse Abigail Chapin at her Atwater Village studio

Hood: Silverlake
Haunt: Chateau Marmont
L.A. Story: "There are so many hidden treasures. I love how you can stumble on something amazing and with so much history around every corner."

Illinois-born and New York-bred, Wren designer Melissa Coker is adamant: she is not a California designer. It’s a label that, despite having moved to Los Angeles only five years ago, she is frequently given. She laughs when asked about it, venturing a guess: “maybe because I like color.” Our guess? Wren’s subtle and ever-elusive marriage between preppy simplicity and sun-bleached youthfulness that is daring, fun and exuberant.

After moving to New York for college, Coker got a job as an editor at Vogue magazine, which led to a gig as a trend forecaster for Abercrombie & Fitch. “It took me from one side of the fashion industry to a whole different one," says Coker, “I was travelling around the world, shopping and exploring.” And yet, she found herself missing certain pieces in her wardrobe. “I had just moved to L.A. and a friend and I started making things that we felt we needed but couldn’t find.” From there, the move to full-fledged designer was rapid as Coker showed the pieces to a buyer, who promptly snatched them up. "Suddenly I thought ‘Oh my god, I have a line.’”

It’s this thoughtfully considered appraisal of what real girls want from their clothes that separates Wren. For her Fall 2011 collection, she was inspired by “street style in the 1960s—girls in Japan and London.” With an editorial instinct that's hard to shake, she crafts a story around each of her "Wren girls." Coker keeps a list of the things she's into—what brands she wears, what books she reads or where she goes for brunch—and considers this identity to be representative of the way that all women have rarefied parts of their personality that they use their clothes to bring out: "Nobody is all these things, but we all have parts of this girl inside of us.”

Meet more of our favorite home-grown designers!

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Originally published in October/November 2011

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