October 2011

IMAGE: Appearances Soft Focus

From signature scarves to blanket coats, Denis Colomb has created a cashmere sensibility in L.A.  by BOOTH MOORE

PHOTO: ERICA LENNARD

Only in Los Angeles could a grunge-luxe cashmere line designed by a French expat architect and released into the world on the recommendation of then Angeleno Rick Owens become a fashion success story. But such is Denis Colomb’s tale. An architect turned designer from Aix-en-Provence, Colomb and his wife and business partner, Erica Lennard, moved to L.A. in 2001 and, three years later, started a business in response to the pashmina craze that just refused to go away. The idea? To create an updated shawl in a cashmere so soft you’d want to hold on to it like a security blanket.

Owens and partner Michele Lamy, who’ve been friends with Colomb since the heyday of Les Deux, were so impressed with the scarves he was making with artisans in Nepal they introduced him to buyers at Maxfield, who snapped up the collection on the spot.

It’s best for you to set aside the usual luxury-cashmere buzzwords—under-stated, classic and refined—associated with a world where a crewneck sweater can set you back $1,200 or more. Colomb is now creating his own cashmere lifestyle niche here, far from Italian standard-bearers Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana.

Colomb collections, which continue to be handwoven in Nepal, have an East-meets-West exoticism. To his first scarf style—the $425 ring shawl that is still his bestseller—he added basket-weave patterns, freehand stripes, earthy plaids, primitive-looking chevrons and zigzags.

Four years ago, he branched out with the goal of creating contemporary cashmere pieces: breezy tunics and shrunken jackets fitted through the sleeves, kimonos and striped ponchos. This season, there are blanket coats, jackets for layering, oversize pants and chevron-patterned scarves, capes and ponchos, sexy knit tank dresses and summer-weight tees, many largely unisex and fashioned in evocative colors such as incense brown, moonless night, burnt tea leaves and Himalayan green—and all designed with the haute nomad in mind.

Keith Richards is a fan, as is Steven Spielberg, who tapped Colomb to make plush blankets for his screening room. Sharon Stone likes to wear Colomb’s hooded capes to travel incognito. And fashion designer Haider Ackermann, who collaborates with Colomb on scarves for his runway shows, can often be spotted wearing one himself.

The designer credits Los Angeles for his relatively easy entrée into the fashion business. “Anything is possible here,” Colomb says, his conversation still peppered with bons and voilàs. “You don’t need a backstory. If people like something, they’ll want it.”

Prices range from $425 to $2,000 for scarves, $650 to $4,000 for blankets, $250 to $3,500 for clothing. The collection is available at Maxfield, Barneys New York, Savannah and A’Maree’s.