Viva la Difference

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Jason Flynn


rue style encompasses many things. Visuals, of course. An ideology or approach. Manufacturing principles. A place where functionality and fashion and artistic expression come together. There are myriad ways to combine all of these elements, and this month’s stories showcase the breadth, depth and diversity of style in our local community. 

On one end of the spectrum is the forward-thinking Designworks. The Newbury Park-based design consultancy (part of the BMW Group) is in the business of picturing what the world will be like decades from now. Its core mission: to envision right now the tools consumers will want and need in the future. A commitment to reflecting “newness” is at the heart and soul of Designworks’ aesthetic, and you can see it in everything the studio develops, whether it’s a pair of shoes, ergonomic seating or an automobile that integrates all the bells and whistles available. Elegant lines, cool metallics, innovative shapes: That’s the world of tomorrow as conceived by Designworks.

But of course, the tried and true has value, too, as Neil Harrison can attest. His cotton and denim menswear is heavily influenced by the simple yet sturdy jeans and t-shirts his mother (a seamstress) dressed him in. Stormy Monday also makes skateboards and cutting boards, and as a whole his collection speaks to an appreciation for vintage craftsmanship and unpretentious, but reliable, time-tested quality.

Personal expression is important to any designer, and for River Sauvageau, owner of Studio Sauvageau, that means color: wide ranging and plenty of it. The vibrant patterns that she turns into purses, luggage, backpacks, wallets and similar products are mirrored in her art, in her home, and in her richly decorated retail store in Downtown Ojai. Part of River (if you’ll pardon the expression) runs through all of it, giving her beautiful bags a style all their own.

Valerie Pike, a Ventura-based kids’ yoga teacher, wanted something comfortable for her pint-sized yogis to wear while they practiced their asanas. Her fashion-conscious students craved clothing with style and panache that went beyond sweatpants and leotards. Out of those two needs was born YogaBerries, a fun, functional and, most importantly, comfortable line of childrens’ activewear that is now sold across the country.

Four designers, four products lines, four styles as different from each other as the sources that inspired them. From the stuff of science fiction to the fondly recalled past, and every point in between, there’s no “one” style that defines Ventura County. That’s the beauty of having so much talent in one place: It finds so many different outlets for expression. And it’s to our credit that the area’s creative umbrella is wide enough to encompass it all.


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