Shangri-LA, Hell-A—whatever name you like to bestow on Los Angeles, I prefer to think of it of the home of Myrtle. The shop is run by cute-as-a-button Whitney Bickers, who sells independent clothing labels from all over the world, including totes by fellow WORN crush Fieldguided. Myrtle is a fine purveyor of handmade kitsch (and independent fashion magazines such as yours truly) that appeals to dreamy girls and boys.
How did Myrtle come to fruition? What inspired you to enter the retail business?
The store has come along so well that people ask me if it was a lifelong dream, but Myrtle was a true lightbulb moment for me. I moved to Los Angeles to go to film school and worked in the entertainment industry for almost seven years. I ended up making big “boy” movies (my name is in the Cowboys & Aliens credits!) and realized I wasn’t doing the right thing for me. I spent a long time knowing that I would do something else if I only knew WHAT and then it came to me all in one day—the idea of a store, what I would sell, what it would be called. I wish I knew how to make this kind of epiphany come about because I would have done it a lot sooner!
How did you dress in high school?
I dressed very differently in high school. My almost daily uniform was jeans, a button-down shirt and brown oxfords. I grew up in suburban Ohio and Abercrombie was definitely more prized than originality.
I also had a lot of knee surgery in middle school and was very self-conscious about my legs. It actually wasn’t until even more surgery in college that I finally got over it and started wearing dresses all the time.
In the latest issue of Worn, two wornettes face off on the benefits vs. pitfalls of altering vintage clothing. What do you think: to hem or not to hem?
Hem! I’m biased though: I’m 5’1″ so I hem everything.
A lot of people think of LA as championing the big tits/blonde hair image of ideal female beauty. As someone who has never been to California, is it really like that? How do people dress in LA?
Since WORN took my picture, I bleached my hair for the first time in my life! It certainly doesn’t make me a ‘big tits/blonde hair’ type though. I think some of that stereotype is true, but only in certain areas. Los Angeles is really a city of neighborhoods, so you may see that in Hollywood and when I worked in Beverly Hills I would notice less women aging traditionally—a lot of plastic surgery. But on the east side, where the shop is, it’s not very common. Here you see tattoos and funky hair instead. If I said one generalization of all-California style, it would be color.
I’d also add this perfect explanation from my friend and designer Jennifer Parry Dodge of Ermie: “It’s so warm here most of the year that wearing black from head to toe is unbearable. Since l moved here, my wardrobe has become more expressive. I live in a predominately Latino neighborhood, and when I walk down my street there is vivid color and pattern everywhere”
Where does Myrtle fit in LA style?
Myrtle is all about color, uniqueness and positivity. I lean to the more independent side since it’s a pretty trend-oriented city, but I consider that a good thing.
Tell us some more about Myrtle’s connection to tomboy fashion.
Same as anyone else’s: total admiration! I just have the good fortune to live in the same city as Lizzie Garrett Mettler [of Tomboy Style and she was kind enough to come to the store with her book. It’s been so inspirational to me that I wanted to do more than just a signing, so with Megan McIsaac‘s help, I was able to do a Myrtle-version of Tomboy Style with some photos of our own. Whether you consider yourself a girly dresser or not, I think most women have a connection to wearing what they want and building their own persona. It can be very powerful!
What is your favourite textile pattern: florals, leopard print or tie-dye?
If you looked at my current closet, it’d be florals, but leopard is really growing on me and may eventually take over.
What are some of your favourite brands in the store right now?
The new summer Ermie and Ilana Kohn are incredible: amazing hand done patterns on silk—they feel like pajamas but look so stylish. There’s a lot of jewelry here that I want to pile on all at once too: necklaces from Devon Pavlovits, bracelets from Dull Diamond and Annie Costello Brown. And it makes me really proud to look around the store and see some international women as well: Fieldguided and Scout & Catalogue (Canada), Bonbi Forest (England), 31 Bits (Uganda), and Missibaba (South Africa); I hope to keep that up! It’s hard to play favorites though, because I don’t carry anything I don’t love.
What fashion blogs have you been reading lately?
Love Aesthetics, Clever Nettle, The Glamourai, The Cut, Totokaelo, Tomboy Style, Adored Vintage, Colette Patterns—I’d call those the best of the best but I think I have about 100 in my reader.
There have been a lot of books—Weetzie Bat, Less Than Zero, Paint it Black – that depict Los Angeles in a hazy, idealized way. What book do you think most accurately reflects your understanding of LA?
Admission: I’ve never read any of these. When I think of LA fiction, I actually think of the ones that paint it at it’s darkest—James Ellroy noirs and The Day of the Locust—it’s just such an interesting juxtaposition with ‘it’s always sunny’ environment. Maybe I should add some lighter ones to my beach reads.
Favourite song: L.A. Woman by the Doors, Los Angeles by X or L.A. by Elliott Smith?
I love Elliott Smith and his mural in Silverlake is a big part of LA to me. However, I am going to cheat and submit a fourth: I’d have to say hands down “Los Angeles I’m Yours” by The Decemberists. I love it on it’s own merits, but having also seen it played live at the Hollywood Bowl, it’s the LA song that always comes to mind first and foremost.
photography // Lisa Kannakko