Skaist-Levy, whose husband, Jeff Levy, is a rock musician and film producer, did the same, browsing around Etsy and EBay, perusing vintage wares and adding to the mental vision board that would provide the foundation for Skaist Taylor. "It was a great experience being on that non-compete," she says. It provided "17 months to go back and think, 'What do I want to make now?' Without the confines of what it had to be. It was perfect."
One day, while the two women were apart, they each happened to watch a film featuring Italian actress and rock 'n' roll muse Anita Pallenberg. Re-inspired by Pallenberg's style, Skaist-Levy called her best friend and said, "I'm really feeling Anita ... ," with Nash-Taylor finishing her sentence: "Pallenberg? Me too!" They took the coincidence as a sign that Pallenberg and her free-spirited ilk should be their totems, reminders of what it was they always loved about fashion in the first place.
And that meant "individual, free-spirited and eclectic," Nash-Taylor says. "As far as the company, small and fun is what we wanted this time around, and non-corporate for as long as we can."
Skaist Taylor presented its first collection in February, in a cold parking lot beneath Lincoln Center during New York Fashion Week. Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and other fashion luminaries gathered in the underground space, where dreamy shots of California redwoods were projected on the walls. Models channeled Jane Birkin and Barbarella as they glided not on a catwalk but through the crowd, dressed in oversize fur coats, metallic mini dresses, embroidered blouses with full poet sleeves, sheer backless black dresses that nodded to Emanuel Ungaro and skintight leather pants. "It's so fresh, so L.A.," were the murmurs.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 22, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Skaist Taylor: Elsewhere in this edition, an Image section article about the fashion label Skaist Taylor said designer Gela Nash-Taylor is married to Duran Duran's Nick Taylor. His first name is John. The error was detected after the section went to press.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 29, 2012 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Skaist Taylor: A July 22 article about the fashion label Skaist Taylor said designer Gela Nash-Taylor is married to Duran Duran's Nick Taylor. His first name is John.
There was a small nod to the designers' past in the shape of a Japanese velour tracksuit, because "casual luxury doesn't just go away," Skaist-Levy says. But other than that, the look was defiantly boho, with only a glimmer of bling.
Hamish Bowles, international editor at large for Vogue, noted the difference, saying via email on Thursday: "The Juicy girl is the Skaist Taylor woman at her most laid back and off-duty, but I think that what Pam and Gela are doing with their new label is very different -- it's more sophisticated, more fashion forward and more niche."
Among the models was Theodora Richards -- daughter of Rolling Stones guitar legend Keith Richards and model Patti Hansen -- a "crazy little angel" who served as muse for the collection. "When we thought about the collection, we were, like, 'Who really would be the perfect girl in spirit and vibe?' " Skaist-Levy says, "and it was Theo. She was inspiring, amazing and we loved her. When she saw the python-skin boots she was, like, 'I'm in.' "
So were the buyers -- Neiman Marcus, Net-A-Porter, Maxfield, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom all scooped up the collection for this fall, as did Harvey Nichols and Harrods in London, among other retailers.
"It's a triumph," says Ken Downing, fashion director of Neiman Marcus. "Expressing your personal spirit is where fashion is going, and they have their finger on the pulse of that." The collection was less designed for design's sake, he says, and more like "an incredible wardrobe" that someone might have collected over time.
"It didn't have one single note, it sang in many different tones," Downing says. "And there was an edge to it; really feminine but at times it took on masculine qualities, coming together in a harmonious way. Great tension is always the sign of a great collection." Retailers are expected to price the collection between $600 and $1,000 for dresses, $295 to $500 for knitwear, $400 to $500 for trousers and $1,000 to $2,000 for outerwear.
Will the woman who wore Juicy Couture in 2002 want to wear Skaist Taylor in 2012? Downing hopes so. "That woman, like all of us, is in a different place now," he says. "It's a new fashion moment."
Although the looks have a definite California feel, Bowles says, "Pam and Gela are both global citizens, and they mix couture with vintage and cutting-edge contemporary in an exciting way in their own wardrobes and that's reflected in their runway. I think it's a seductive look for customers around the world."
One thing is for sure: Skaist Taylor represents a new kind of Californian eccentricity for its creators. "We're keeping things authentic and we're keeping things us," Skaist-Levy says. "All the way."