Thursday, February 2, 2023
Perhaps nowhere more than in the rock star do life and art blend so harmoniously—with amps turned up to 10, of course. Liberated from a normal vocation with standards of grooming (“please do not use more than one can of hairspray per day”) and hygiene (“please do not come to work smelling like beer”), rock stars can dress however they want, and if anyone chuckles and asks if they’re in a band, they can honestly respond, “As a matter of fact I am,” followed by whatever hand gestures feel right in the moment.
It’s a lifestyle many of us dream of—and some actually live—and not only musicians. That’s why Shrine of Hollywood says it caters not only to rock stars but also “glamour icons and fashionistas of the 21st century.” And it’s been doing so since the 20th century—1994 to be precise-—proving that in fashion, if you tap the right niche, you might just outlive the Rolling Stones.
There’s a hidden rock star in all of us, including Peter Graham Wright, who got a master’s in business at USC before going off to sell his own clothing on Venice Beach in 1989. He was self-taught in the craft of clothes making, first sewing and then manufacturing, and at night would prowl all the legendary rock ’n’ roll clubs such as The Roxy and the Whisky a Go Go.
Along with partner Rhonda Bordenave, they opened a retail shop on Melrose in ’94, which they operated until 2014. The internet changed everything for everyone, and when you cater to a niche as specific as Shrine of Hollywood, customers start appearing from every spot on a world tour. “We were so busy online,” said Wright, “I thought we were kind of wasting our time and could use it in more valuable ways with design and wholesale.”
Currently the duo operates a downtown L.A. showroom by appointment and sells online at shrinestore.com. Gothic may be the first word that comes to mind after spying models in black lipstick and the kind of long coats worn by Adam Ant in his “dandy highwayman” mode, but Wright considers the Goth vibe a subset of rock ’n’ roll style. “When people ask what kind of clothes we make, I always say, ‘It’s Hollywood rock ’n’ roll style that gets more glam or dark based on cycles.’”
The description is accurate, for only in L.A. do brocade frock coats, fingerless gloves, and sunshine and palm trees make perfect sense together. The Hollywood rock-star look, whatever the niche, is also impervious to extinction, and there aren’t many fashion tribes that can make that claim. “It’s been in fashion for the last 30 years so, who knows, why not the next 30?”
Anyone can put together a basic rocker look—all you need is a motorcycle jacket, jeans, T-shirt and Converse sneakers. But that’s more of a fan look. To make people ask if you’re the lead singer in a band, you need ostentatious pieces with 18th-century touches like epaulets and buttons. And the right fabric is crucial: Wright spends much of his time sourcing damask, tapestry, brocade and velvet fabrics to make into jackets and pants. “My stuff isn’t all black, and the colors show up really well on stage.”
The ultimate stage, of course, is life itself, where each one of us gets to be the star. Style tribes from Goth to mod don’t seem to hold the same sway over young people these days, so while the internet may have brought Shrine of Hollywood a global customer base, it also may have homogenized tastes. Could the rock-star look face extinction after all?
“With the internet, people don’t really need to dress up and go out to a club to see a band. Up until the early 2000s there was a club every night of the week in L.A., but now maybe there are just a couple on the weekend. People don’t gather in person if they can gather on Facebook, but if you’re something like a mod, you have to dress in that fashion and have a get-together with your other mod compatriots in order to be mod,” said Wright.
It’s a kind of conundrum—in order to be part of a style tribe, you need a tribe. But Shrine of Hollywood is a bit different, catering to those staunch individual “glam icons” and “fashionistas” who prefer to be the only one working their look.
In the end, that’s how all fashion trends begin.
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