Four local, emerging fashion powerhouses get real about trends, sustainability and fall must-haves.
By Jennifer Pappas Yennie
Fall means fashion. And these Newport Beach up-and-comers are bringing their A-game to the 2021-2022 season. From resortwear and swimsuits to luxury lounge and runway-ready dresses created by local designers or curated by local clothing brands, look no further for the authority on burgeoning trends, styles and designs.
Brian and Marlo Hovis present fresh fashion through their Hypeach brand.
“Ambitious” barely taps the surface of dynamic husband-and-wife team Brian and Marlo Hovis, Newport Beach residents who created Hypeach, a carefully curated brand that’s all about “California fresh” styles. Denim, jumpsuits, rompers, dresses, activewear, loungewear, swimwear (of course) and accessories like hats, bags, jewelry and sunglasses: Hypeach has it all. Trendy and fun, with an undeniable Gen-Z vibe, Hypeach launched in February 2020 and already has a Miami Swim Week debut under its belt. The brand is available online at hypeach.com and there are plans to host pop-ups at select locations in coming months.
Newport Beach Magazine: How did Hypeach come to be?
Brian Hovis: We wanted a brand that could operate on both ends of the spectrum: from high-end luxury to super casual and playful. There’s a huge portion of market share allocated to the fast fashion space. … On the other end of the spectrum, you have Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. … At Hypeach, you can find a beautiful bodycon dress for $45—double-lined, handcrafted, something that can live in your closet for years—that would sell at Nordstrom for $140 and there’s no quality difference.
Marlo Hovis: We really sought to evolve the fast fashion market space with high-quality apparel at affordable prices. And that does not exist. … We were really excited about the possibility of bringing California fresh styles to the marketspace.
NBM: How does SoCal, and Newport in particular, inspire how you curate the brand?
MH: Hypeach offers California fresh styles that are influenced by living a Southern California coastal lifestyle and in Newport Beach. We are incredibly inspired [by] … living in Newport Beach on a daily basis. Our brand aesthetic reflects this notion of “Cali Fresh,” palm trees, sunsets [and] ocean vibes. We regularly create content for the brand locally and that’s reflected on our website and Instagram (@hypeachboutique).
NBM: What fashion trends are you seeing in California right now?
MH: Unequivocally, it’s denim. California really sets the trends. Look at the relax-fit vibe that’s everywhere right now. That’s coming out of SoCal. Related to that, the ’90s and the Y2K trend is also back. As far as patterns: argyle and checkerboard patterns.
NBM: Fall must-haves?
MH: Palette-wise? Neutrals like classic ivory and white. So on-trend for fall. The Chelsea boot or any type of platform that’s got a combat feel. We’re also going to see a lot of chunky knits and leather. But leather used in unusual ways, like entire leather outfits or a crop top with leather joggers.
NBM: Can you tell us about your partnership with GlobalGirl Media?
MH: We knew we wanted to use fashion as a force for good, and the brand presented an opportunity for us to support causes in a larger way than Brian and I could do individually. We donate a portion of every purchase to GGM, a powerful, female-run organization [that’s] global in reach. The GGM mission is to equip young girls from underrepresented communities and backgrounds with journalism training to tell their own stories. … There’s a heavy emphasis on becoming positive agents of change. Giving back is one of our core company values.
The Self-Taught Designer
Jessica Johnson’s eponymous label takes off at her first boutique.
From stylist to lifestyle blogger to self-taught designer, Jessica Johnson finally witnessed a dream come to fruition with the opening of her first boutique on 17th Street in Costa Mesa this past spring. Guided by passion and intuition, Johnson’s line of flattering dresses, jumpers, tops and skirts for women is effortless, feminine and sophisticated. Handcrafted in LA using luxe fabrics, the label also includes accessories, shoes and children’s clothing.
NBM: Can you tell us how you got started as a designer?
Jessica Johnson: I was always interested in fashion; I’ve always loved it. I used to have a lifestyle blog called Mommy Chic by Jessica. At that time, I was also styling and fashion writing in LA; I started the blog to share my fashion tips. Being that I was pregnant at the time, my mind was on comfortable, yet stylish mom clothes. … [But] I didn’t want to put myself in the “mom” or “maternity” category, so I switched it up and changed the brand to Jessica Johnson. It’s been a dream and a goal of mine to have my own direct-to-consumer store. It’s just taken a little bit of time and confidence and building the brand to get there. I started [the brand and online shop] five years ago, on a whim. … An opportunity presented itself and I just thought, “Wow, this is a dream. I’m just gonna go for it.”
NBM: What are your main inspirations and influences?
JJ: Locations. I’m inspired [by] being somewhere. I take a lot of inspiration from Italy—I just love their fabrics and their design: sophisticated, yet easy-going. I import a lot of fabrics from Italy. Locations are big. … [I’m] inspired by chic cities around the globe that I have visited. The Mediterranean and California coast have inspired more collections than any other. … I think of [former Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor] Diana Vreeland when she says, “the eye has to travel”; anytime I’m somewhere, it gives me new inspiration. I also find inspiration from fabrics. … A lot of times, I find a fabric and the fabric tells me what I want to do with it.
NBM: How would you describe your target market?
JJ: My whole idea is to create clothing that is timeless and classic and really can be for any age. My clothes are for someone that cares about quality. That’s a big thing.
NBM: What makes your line unique?
JJ: Being made in downtown LA. I have found pride in going for “slow fashion.” … There’s a handmade quality to the clothes—they’re not just churned out by a bunch of machines overseas. The fabrics also stand out. Every single one I must touch and feel; I wear them and see how they flow. It would be hard to find a fabric in my line that someone didn’t like.
NBM: What are your must-haves for fall?
JJ: The Mia top and Valentina skirt as a set—white with black pinstripe. … I will also have the Isabella dress in the dark navy blue. I have these scarves that I’m so excited about from a mill in Florence, Italy. The fabric is lightweight and soft, almost like cashmere. … Last, the [Italian leather] Esquivel sandals. We have it in the camel, … but for fall we’ll have it in black as well.
Dawn Nguyen has already earned accolades for her clothing designs.
Dawn Sunflower is the heart and soul of Newport Coast resident Dawn Nguyen, the award-winning designer behind custom evening gowns, bridal dresses and ready-to-wear mini dresses, jumpsuits and sets that look like they’re hot off the runway. Whimsical and innovative, a typical Dawn Sunflower design pops with color and hand-embellished details. One must look closely to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity. And while the pandemic has forced Nguyen to temporarily close her Newport Center showroom, her designs are currently available online at shoptiques.com and she is looking to move to a showroom in LA.
NBM: How did you get started as a designer?
Dawn Nguyen: I moved to the U.S. in 2004 [from Vietnam]. It was always my dream to become a fashion designer, but, at that time, I could barely communicate in English, plus I didn’t have any sewing experience. I knew that if I wanted to enroll in a fashion design program, I would need to understand English. A college education was my first step. I finished my associate in arts and science degrees then transferred to University of California, Riverside to complete a business major. From there, I went to FIDM—[Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising]—to complete my dream.
NBM: What’s the biggest challenge you face as a designer here in south Orange County?
DN: It’s sometimes difficult getting new clients to trust me because I am an emerging designer and a new brand to them. Some people prefer to go shopping at the mall instead of getting something custom-made. They don’t want to sit and wait for a custom-made product. They can’t imagine how it will look or fit on their bodies or with their skin tone. They don’t want to give it a try. However, some people prefer one-of-a-kinds, garments that are correctly measured to their bodies.
NBM: What would you describe as your main inspiration?
DN: My inspiration is from my heart and from my emotions. I try to find the artistry in my feelings. When I get stuck creatively, I go to the internet for inspiration: architecture, art, anything natural or man-made … whatever I see around me.
NBM: What is your favorite or most popular piece right now?
DN: I am in love with my Musical Collection. It’s unique and contains many elements of artistry. Jewelry is even embellished into the garments. You can see the emotion right away in each piece. I have a dream that one day I can display this collection at a music museum or theater. … My Dawn Sunflower Musical Collection … [was] displayed one time at the private showroom … [called] Nineteenth Amendment at Lord & Taylor in New York a few years ago.
With her LVHR brand, Heather Franco has an eye for eco-friendly and easy-to-wear looks.
Heather Franco designs the clothes you want to live in—literally. Comprising resort, swim and loungewear, the Corona del Mar-based brand, LVHR (short for Love Her), partners with ethical factories and dye houses in LA to create collections that are not only sustainable (even shipping materials are 100% recyclable), but cozy, sexy and easy to wear. It’s unfussy luxury in soft, natural colors like berry, olive, indigo and rose. Swimwear is vibrant and flirty with a variety of fun botanical prints to choose from.
NBM: How did you get started as a designer?
Heather Franco: I grew up working in my mom’s small clothing company in Arcata, California, where I learned to sew and was surrounded by all aspects of the business. I moved to San Francisco to study ethnic dance and ended up enrolling in FIDM. From there, I interned and worked at various small and large companies designing menswear, womenswear, childrenswear and accessories. I moved here seven years ago to run a sleepwear company in LA. Once it closed in 2018, I launched LVHR.
NBM: What would you describe as your main inspiration?
HF: I always start with a print and go from there. Vacation travel is my main inspiration. I always imagine myself on a vacation and everything I will want to take.
NBM: Let’s talk sustainability—has it always been a passion of yours?
HF: Growing up with the Redwood National Forest as my backyard, I was raised with a strong awareness of the environment. After many years in the fashion industry, in corporate and startup environments, I wanted to start a supportive, sustainable, environment-friendly, female-led company. Because I’ve had to personally do every job in the company, I feel like I’m able to be empathetic to each person I encounter, working on the brand. I work with a small team of sewers and a few local sustainable factories where I know each person is paid a living wage and is well-taken care of. I want every part of my line—down to where the yarn comes from—to be ethical and sustainable. Every step of the production process focuses on eliminating waste and what’s best for the environment.
NBM: Which piece is your personal favorite right now?
HF: My favorite style is the Taylor Jumpsuit in black linen—I live in it.
NBM: Biggest trend in loungewear right now?
HF: Oversized, garment-dyed and cropped, I would say. … And ’90s styles.
NBM: Any upcoming plans for future collections?
HF: I’m finishing up Summer ’22 and have added more of a ’70s, retro vibe with more cover-ups and swim[wear] using eco-, deadstock and vintage fabric.