Like something straight out of 50s Los Angeles, Chelsea Hansford is one of those designers that is both inspiring and inspired. As the head of Simon Miller, she has taken the brand in a new artistic direction with a womenswear and accessories collection focused on "playful luxury", an aesthetic she embodies with pride. Interview.

MONNIER Frères: From your first steps in fashion to your current adventure at Simon Miller, what is your story?

Chelsea Hansford: I grew up in fashion really. I went to school in New York, at the Fashion Institute of Technology, then at about 17 years old I landed my first internship at Opening Ceremony. I worked in the showroom, where I had great mentors, like Olivia Kim. From there I got really immersed into fashion and just started growing in my career. I then had an opportunity to launch a brand called Black Denim (BLK DNM) with designer and creative director Johan Lindbergh. This exposed me to all the different aspects of starting a brand from scratch. It was a really great experience; the brand grew fast and we had lots of great exposure. From there, I decided to join the men's jeans brand Simon Miller where I developed a collection of womenswear and my husband designed the bags.

M.F. : You live in Los Angeles; did you get your inspiration from your city?

C.H. : Yes, for sure! It's extremely important to me. For me Los Angeles is so inspirational, from the mid-century architecture, but also just for things like the signage in the street. It's very specific, it has a lot of grit and personality. And also, just the sun and the energy in LA is definitely an influence in everything I do.

M.F. : Do you think you would create the same collection if you lived in Paris?

C.H. : No, I don't. I lived in New York before moving to LA, and I really see a shift in my designs.

M.F. : Do you have a muse?

C.H. : I don't necessarily have a fashion muse. I am super inspired by cinema and certain directors. Tarantino is one of those people. I also tend to get inspired by architecture, colours, and different brands like Porsche... There is a huge emphasis on autocars in LA, especially the classic car, so that mood and that culture inspires me a lot.

M.F. : How would you define Simon Miller today?

C.H. : Simon Miller is a playful luxury, as I like to say. And it's a brand very much living in mid-century Los Angeles. We try not to take things too seriously.

M.F. : And what exactly is playful luxury?

C.H. : To me, luxury is defined by product quality and style, but it's really important to have fun with it and not be too serious or stiff. That's what I call playful luxury. I think colours play a huge role in that, as well as the attitude of the person who wears it.

M.F. : Is there a colour that suits all your moods?

C.H. : I have this very specific colour that I like. It's called "Condor Green". And I have a 1969 911 Porsche that I painted in Condor Green, represent my whole mood and vibe. I also like a yellow that's kind of a mustard yellow, which we now call "Sunset Orange". It bounces between yellow and orange.

M.F. : If you had to describe your creations in three words, what would you say?

C.H. : I would say bold, sophisticated and fun.

M.F. : And if you had to do the same with yourself, how would you describe yourself?

C.H. : I guess the same!

M.F. : Who is the Simon Miller customer?

C.H. : Someone who likes fashion, who wants to make a bit of a statement and be confident through their clothes. Our pieces are bold without being too complicated or advanced. It's more the colours, the materials and the qualities we use that are really interesting.

M.F. : And what is your material of choice?

C.H. : If I had to choose one, it would be leather. Vegan leather, and everything that looks like leather. We're moving on a lot. The whole ready-to-wear collection is now vegan leather, although the accessories are still leather. We also have a new programme called Rib, which is a jersey knit. It's 92% micro modal and 8% spandex. It took us about a year to get a texture and technique that you can wash, you can dry, it doesn't stretch out and we really can live in the bodies we want to live in. You can wear it when you're pregnant, you can travel in it, dress it up, dress it down, or have a head-to-toe super-chic set. And all for under 200 dollars. I've always been super passionate about offering a versatile product that is suitable for everyone.

M.F. : Are these your favourite pieces?

C.H. : Yes, but I also love the Puffin bag and I love all the shoes!

M.F. : Speaking of bags, the Bonsai bag has become a street-style favourite. I'd love to know a bit more about the story behind that.

C.H. : Well, the Bonsai was almost an accident... It was the first bag we ever made, and we had a leather atelier in our studio flat in New York. My husband made bags for other brands, and he just whipped up a bag for me inspired by a Muji pencil case he had seen. He just decided to make a bag and put some rings on it. The first iteration had these tiny little rings that could only fit one finger in. I carried it around and people were in love with it, so we thought "there's something here, maybe we should do a bag". So we played with rings and came up with the size and the proportions, and we put it in the showroom. Then, Barneys picked it up and all of a sudden, it started selling like crazy. We started doing it in colours and in different sizes, and it became the famous "Bonsai" bag. I guess we started doing bags from there!

M.F. : When we looked at your Instagram, we saw a photo of Marcel, your dog, with a “jewel” leash. Can we expect a special doggy collection soon?

C.H. : I live for that dog, and my husband and I are always trying to come up with ideas. So yes, for sure, one day we will have a dog collection!