Desperate Los Angeles
By Jaclyn Bethany
Walking through a grim stretch of Los Angeles one afternoon, a bright and colorful boutique stood out to me. Upon entering, I was transformed into a fairy tale world of ultra-feminine fashion (a.k.a., my dream come true). Desperate is run by Los Angeles-transplant and Italian-born Claudia Cassina, and the shop has become known for stocking little-known labels and independent female designers, including SRETSIS, TBA, and VIVETTA. For Issue One, I spoke with Cassina to discover more about her background, her love of Los Angeles, and the inspiration behind her shop.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Claudia! Where are you originally from?
Claudia Cassina: I am from a little town called Carobbio degli Angeli (40 minutes away from Milan, Italy.)
JB: Tell me about the brands you stock and your relationship with the designers.
CC: At Desperate, my husband and I decided to focus our selection on independent female designers from Europe and Asia. I met Vivi Ponti (designer and founder of VIVETTA) a long time ago at Plastic, a club in Milan, and I fell in love with her aesthetic since her first collection! As soon as we decided to open the store, I knew I needed her pieces.
I met Louise Markey (founder behind contemporary fashion label LF Markey) in London a year ago and we had an instant connection. Her line is very important to me, because I feel like L.A. girls love it!
SRETSIS is another one of my favorites, because it’s just so precious and dreamy. Dresses are made to make you feel beautiful and happy, and that’s what people feel when they wear their pieces.
I decided to carry TBA because, well, I got married in one of her beautiful silk, white dresses! Let’s just say that I have a special relationship with all of my suppliers, and I think you can really feel the love and the care we put into our selection when you enter Desperate.
JB: In your mind, who is the Desperate customer?
CC: I feel like the girls that shop here are very refined and strong—ladies that love fashion and are not afraid to show the world their characters—and like to talk out loud. Women who show their freedom without forgetting to be romantic.
JB: Who is a girl you'd love to dress?
CC: Sometimes when I do my buying (for the shop), I think about what my friend Matilda Lutz could wear for a red carpet event. She’s such a simple and clean beauty, and I really think she is one of my muses. If I have to think about some big names, I will go for Michelle Williams or Emma Stone. Oh, and Sofia Coppola!
JB: What do you look for when stocking the store?
CC: Most of the pieces you find at Desperate are one-of-a-kind. That’s very important to me. When you buy at our store, you feel like you’re taking something incredibly special and unique with you! You can be sure that when you’re wearing it, people will compliment you and ask you about it…. it’s quite impossible to get away unnoticed! Another essential point is, of course, to support independent designers.
JB: Why did you chose to open Desperate in Los Angeles?
CC: When I was 22, I traveled to California with some friends and fell hopelessly in love with this city! I decided that, as soon I got my degree in Fashion, I had to move here. I tried to work as a stylist and costumier for a while, but that wasn’t enough to allow me to legally live in the U.S., so my husband and I decided to do this crazy thing and open our own little boutique! We’d been working in the fashion industry for five years and we were ready to take the next step.
The whole aesthetic is inspired by my favorite artists, filmmakers, photographers, and storytellers: Corinne Day, Lise Sarfati, Jim Goldberg, Venetia Scott, Harmony Korine, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Gregg Araki. The name of the shop comes from a tune by Adam and the Ants, “Desperate But Not Serious.”
JB: Favorite collection from SS17?
CC: This season, we’ll carry two new brands! I’m super excited to receive OuOr, from Seoul and, of course, our first male designer: Adam Selman! I’m sooo in love with his brand, with his persona, with everything he does. He’s such a talented and fascinating human being!
JB: Why do you believe publications created for and by women are important in today’s cultural landscape?
CC: “What more ﬁtting than to destroy an old word, a vicious and corrupt word that has done much harm in its day and is now obsolete? The word ‘feminist’ is the word indicated. (…) Let us write that word in large black letters on a sheet of foolscap; then solemnly apply a match to the paper. Look, how it burns! What a light dances over the world!”
-Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, 1938
Today’s cultural landscape is the child of what some incredible people of the past started to create decades ago. Strong words like [“feminist”] are still extremely modern, and I think what we are doing now is just doing our best to continue down that path. I want to be there when there will be no need to use words like “acceptance” anymore, simply because there will be no more reason to use them. ★
Shop Desperate Los Angeles online on their website.