Lotta Stensson’s brand has become synonymous with sumptuous fabrics, artful draping and bohemian elegance. And what strikes one upon first meeting Lotta; is that she herself is as beautiful as the clothes she designs. Curious hazel eyes sparkle from beneath a curtain of blond hair and she would more be mistaken as a customer than as the proprietor. Quick to laugh, her charm and personality are immediately inviting and evidenced throughout the resplendent opulence of her 3rd Street Boutique in Los Angeles.
Hailing originally from Sweden, her love of fashion was nurtured and honed in the design studios of her grandmother and mother who were both noted designers in their own right. “ My upbringing around strong yet colorful and warm females who were fearless and groundbreakers in their field had a major impact on the person I am today.” Her summer breaks were for all intent and purpose an unpaid internship in her family’s factories and boutiques but it was those very years that paved that initial path to her current success.
Moving to New York at the age of eighteen, her creative endeavors led to earning her degree at the prestigious and instantly recognizable Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where upon completion she continued crafting her skills under the tutelage of Seventh Avenue’s most notable designers such as Donna Karan as well as other recognizable brands.
When she finally set off on her own a few short years later her success was all but guaranteed, bolstered by the originality of her collection. She was voted “Best Up and Coming Designer” in 2000 and established herself as the preeminent talent to emerge from the Mercedes Benz fashion week.
Her designs graced the pages of top publications such as ELLE and VOGUE as she continued be the darling of editors and stylists. But a turning point came when Madonna handpicked her collection as the embodiment of the spirit of her Ray of Light album and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stones in Lotta’s design, which at time was a groundbreaking fusion of East Indian and Urban Western.
That cover shoot heralded an evolution in the recognition of the brand as now Hollywood was turning to Lotta for their spotlight moments and it eventually drew her to Los Angeles where she opened her flagship store on the famed Melrose Avenue.
Today she boasts an impressive array of A-list clients; as both Angelina Jolie and Beyonce have been spotted in her collections: with the latter wearing an original Lotta Stensson design to her first fragrance launch. Yet Lotta remains ever humble about her brands global success, which has grown to encompass both a resort collection and introduce a younger line of ready-to-wear.
And it is that international success that serves as a direct testament to the timeless element of her design aesthetic and she has continued to thrive when so many of her contemporaries found their creative vision crippled due to economic pressures. By her own admission it is what she has found the most difficult “That this art-form called fashion design, is an art-form that is forced to be mass produced in order for one to survive financially and carry forward with the craft.”
And that is why the hallmark of her success has been her perseverance.
She is a woman designing for women and she artfully crafts beautiful garments that drape and flatter and continue in the timeless tradition she has established for her brand which continues to redefine sensuality and mysticism
When asked how she staves of the trappings of complacency she gets serious: “ Even if I would try (to be complacent) I have a hard time creating or caring to create something that is already out there or has been seen before. I strive and only want to design something with an original look and feel. I would rather continue to be an artist than a money-making machine that turns out the expected or knocks off other people’s work”.
Her constant search for inspiration is why she has such a deep seeded love and need to travel. This year she documented her travels through India in a photo essay that served as the storyboard for her current collection, which is a visual experience of both texture and color. Even when she has a time constraint and can’t travel for an extended period; she spend her free time perusing books, movies, antique shops and flea markets searching for that spark to her imagination which will serve as the source of a new print and lay the foundation of a new collection.
And though so much of who she is evidenced through the vision in her work it is in her personal life where she is most revealed.
When asked by friends what defines Lotta, the overwhelming response is “her heart”. She has given her time and proceeds to many organizations such as Downtown Women’s Clinic, Toys for Tots, Shine on Sierra Leone and Project Angel Food; often lending out her store to host events that give back to the greater Los Angeles Community. Lotta is defined by so much more than her profession; one gets the sense that she in on journey… and it is in that journey that she finds her happiness.
“To live each day to it’s fullest, to be honest to myself and my intent and be able to afford to continue to live this amazing dream and creative life… but yet have time left in this lifetime to explore another avenue and profession which I’m sure will incorporated fashion in some sense and die as healthy as possible, have as little regret as possible and know that I loved and was loved in return.”
8372 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
written by E.A. Thomas // photography by Michael Hallstrom