The emo revival is — and has been — in full swing. Machine Gun Kelly and Olivia Rodrigo are some of the biggest musicians on the planet with their brands of introspective, self-deprecating pop-punk. High schoolers on TikTok are acting like it's Warped Tour 2009, complete with high angle selfies, ridiculously teased hair and Hot Topic studded belts. Being sad and dressing like a basement bedroom rebel is finally cool, again — and Left Hand LA is leaning in as a voice of authority on the nostalgic style.
The Los Angeles-based label, led by Julie Kucharski, turns upcycled garments into one-off pieces decorated with "a digital collagist approach." From Willow Smith to Dorian Electra and Miley Cyrus, Left Hand LA has transcended from being a cult internet favorite to a pop star's go-to, with skirts, hoodies and lingerie transformed using patches, safety pins or bows. The result is intimate, like a BFF burning a CD mix for you or sliding a note when the teacher's not looking.
Left Hand LA's latest drop, which follows a regular stream of small-batch releases that sell out instantly, centers on Kucharski's childhood friendships and experiences — specifically as an angsty teen between the years 2006 and 2010. She went back through her own history — all the emo boy crushes, the American Apparel shopping sprees — to develop "2007," a range of special pieces decorated with relics of our more existential past.
Preview the collection, below, modeled by Jessie Edelstein (AKA Jessie.MP3), and read on as PAPER catches up with Kucharski to talk about the "female empowerment, sexual liberation and self-expression" that Left Hand LA brings to fashion today.
What perspective do you see Left Hand LA bringing to the fashion industry today?
Left Hand is unconventional. We're all about female empowerment, sexual liberation and self-expression. Being a self-made business woman is so rewarding and I hope Left Hand inspires other women to explore their passions. We want to inspire people to push boundaries, do what they want and be who they want to be. I want Left Hand to encourage people to both embrace and show off the inner weirdo many of us feel pressured to hide, or lack the tools to express outwardly
We're creating products out of items that have already existed, but we're giving them an entirely new life. The definition of fashion is forever evolving. We have the advantage now to connect with our shoppers on a more personal level through social media. We introduced the idea that you can start a business out of your garage with nothing but a sewing machine and a thrift store down the street — and who knows? Rihanna might even end up wearing your designs as long as you work hard and believe in yourself
What's your process for conceptualizing and creating these different drops?
I just started doing drops, actually. I've always made whatever I was feeling in that moment, but I wanted to try something new and now I love creating entire collections. It's like telling a story. I truly feel as if I'm living in whatever inspired the collection. Our next collection is back to school. I've always loved school uniforms. I was on the uniform committee in high school [laughs] — obviously trying to make it cuter, but they didn't listen. I distinctly remember getting in trouble for my skirt being too short or wearing the wrong shoes. So you can imagine, we're going against all the dress code rules and doing it our way this time.
All your pieces seem to sell out instantly. What about them do you think has attracted such buzz?
I love knowing my designs are being worn by freaks around the world. I think the fact that the pieces are sustainable, one-of-a-kind and look like nothing else in the world attracts people. And because each design comes from a genuinely passionate place, they are unique in a way that mass produced things could never be.
You've said on Instagram that this might be your favorite collection ever. Why do you think it's so strong?
Every piece in this collection is reminiscent of a specific era in my life, the one the images come from. Every time I look at a patch, I remember that moment and can't help but smile. During that time I was exploring my personal style and fantasizing about the career I have now. Most of the pieces are hand-sewn, which as we know takes forever, but it gives me time to relive these memories. The nostalgia Is really making the collection so special to me. I'm definitely doing a part two of this collection, I'm literally obsessed.
"My designs are often nostalgic, sarcastic, offensive, unwearable, bold, tacky and loud."
You seem to always be personally connected to the work. In what ways is this collection a reflection of you and your life?
I make one-of-a-kind pieces for one-of-a-kind people. My designs are often nostalgic, sarcastic, offensive, unwearable, bold, tacky and loud... in the best way. And they always mean something to me. I refuse to make things I don't like or items that appeal to the masses. That's the anti-Left Hand — that's the Right Hand.
I grew up in a small town where everyone turned out to be doctors and lawyers. And then there was me and my friends, pursuing passions that weren't as accepted. It's 10 years later, I don't live in a small town and those memories are some of my best. So it's only proper for me to base a collection through my eyes from 2006-2010. But I named this collection 2007, because that was the craziest year of my life.
How'd you decide on the patches?
The patches are a mix of my fave bands and Myspace art I found in a Google rabbit hole. I wanted to do a scene kid collection and I realized I lived the reality I was trying to portray. I reached out to my friends from high school, most of whom I haven't talked to in ages. But more importantly than talking about the collection, I got to catch up with some of the most eccentric people I've ever met. Some of them are married with kids, some are dead or in jail, some you never would think they were scene when they were young. Everyones is in such different places 10 years later, but this collection is bringing us all back together and sharing our experiences to the world.
What're your thoughts on the current pop-punk revival in mass culture? Why now?
Its nice to hear something refreshing in music and see a shift in fashion, as well. I feel like I'm reliving my teens. Times are so different now and I love to see things come back around and take on aspects of a new generation.
Were you a scene kid growing up? Why do you think Gen Z is so obsessed with that iconography today?
I had so many phases, but I was definitely a scene baby in high school. Four years of Warped Tour, American Apparel and emo boys. Gen Z loves the iconography of that time because they feel exactly how we felt then: confused and rebellious.
Photos courtesy of Left Hand LA
- Grandpa Models Gentle Monster 2021 Collection - PAPER ›
- Pee Girl on Painting, SOPHIE, and Keeping it 100 - PAPER ›