Style looks a little different when it comes through a Hollywood lens, and shoppers often like what they see.
Sunday's Emmy Awards featured the first big fashion red carpet of the season — and it was a long runway: a parade of rainbow-bright gowns, skyscraper heels, glittering clutches that only hold a lipstick, along with millions of dollars in jewels.
It didn't exactly change what most women are wearing, but what many do take away as a style cue is attitude. It's the cool, relaxed glamour that celebrities so often capture that gives the West Coast its fashion credibility.
The Emmys coincide with the seasonal catwalk previews in Milan and Paris, that, in theory, are where designers, retailers, editors and stylists are choosing the must-have items for spring after soaking in the new looks from New York and London. But celebrities and their Los Angeles neighbors don't particularly like to be told what to wear because it's in or out of fashion. And they're good at adding their own spin.
"L.A. women are great at taking current trends and interpreting them to suit their personal style," says celebrity stylist Jennifer Rade, who counts Angelina Jolie and Jada Pinkett Smith among her clients. "L.A. style is about self-expression."
Monique Lhuillier, one of the few California-based designers to show at New York Fashion Week, agrees there's more room to change a look if you're wearing it in Los Angeles. "You get a sense ... that women don't want (to be) too perfect or buttoned-up," she says.
A runway gown often is unrecognizable when it turns up on the red carpet at an awards show, mostly because it will seem less severe and more approachable, Lhuillier says. The makeup likely will be more natural, hair will be more casual and the accessories will be more colorful. It's probably the image that more consumers will relate to, she adds.
(Many expert observers said Lhuillier's flame-red-and-champagne gown worn by Ginnifer Goodwin was one of this year's Emmy gowns to leave a lasting impression.)
That's where a trend starts — and how it keeps going. The maxi dress is one look that suits a starlet, says Louise Roe, Glamour magazine's editor at large and the new host of NBC's "Fashion Star." It's funky, cool and fancy enough that no one is giving it up.
Roe, a British native, has filled her wardrobe with them, and she's generally wearing more prints and an overall looser silhouette, just like the stars she's mingling with. "I'll see something new and say, 'I'm going to shop for something like that,'" Roe says, "and it's not always a multi-thousand-dollar runway look."
"People want what they see celebrities wearing," agrees Rade, who serves as a spokeswoman for retailers T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. She has seen shoppers carrying ripped-out pages of magazines as they try to emulate a look.
Celebrities are more likely than models to be seen as three-dimensional people, and they are photographed at home, at work and even the grocery store in all types of clothes, so there is something "livable" about their closet, agrees Joe Zee, creative director of Elle magazine, who has spent several months shuttling between coasts to tape the Sundance Channel show "All on the Line."
He says he saw lots of women — important women — in L.A. attend business meetings in a T-shirt, jacket, jeans and great gladiator sandals, but they would surely be in a suit in New York. Clothes are a way for a celebrity to further tell her evolving story, Zee says, while that East Coast "fashion girl" might be making more of a single, high-impact statement.
They also seem to have a more varied routine, and the luxury of a car — which translates to a lot less black. Weather is a factor, too: a miniskirt one day, a romper the next, but you might need jeans and a cardigan later in the week.
When Roe moved out West four years ago, she was expecting hot pink tracksuits, but that's not what she found. There are deep closets and a willingness to experiment, she observes.
When Lhuillier packs for her New York trips, it's about a morning-to-midnight look that straddles every occasion. "It'll be smarter and chicer because it's going to be all day," she says. "When I'm home I wear a lot more color and have more fun. I start my day in a casual dress and a lower heel, big sunglasses and a big tote. And then I'll do a complete change later in the day because I can."
NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.; T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are owned by The TJX Companies Inc.