Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop GALERIE.LA – Photos by Karen Hernandez for The Style Line
“I’ll always opt for having a strong personal style,”
Dechel Mckillian relayed in our interview below. “These days, I’m more into creating and cultivating a wardrobe of timeless wear.” With an unwavering commitment to crafting timeless style without causing harm to the environment, we weren’t surprised to learn that the bonafide style maven and entrepreneur conceived the idea for GALERIE.LA – a platform that is dedicated to fostering prominent, impactful, and sustainably-made womenswear brands. Currently based in Los Angeles, Dechel’s tiny but mighty team operate with a premise for championing sustainability through careful curation, which is something that Dechel claims has been essential in carving out GALERIE.LA’s distinct point of view.
Though for Dechel the journey to sustainability has been in the making for quite some time – as she mentioned, “For me, understanding the word sustainability meant being consciously aware.” Dechel’s creative experiences have helped inform her thoughts on sustainability, and how her role in this important conversation can be realized – which brings us to today’s story. The below features our recent visit at her awe-inducing studio. With her infectious passion and sincere dedication to the task at hand, we were excited to chat with Dechel about her thoughts on curation in this day and age, how her personal style has evolved, and her thoughts on life, work, and style in Los Angeles. Discover the full conversation below and enjoy exclusive moments from our visit captured by Karen Hernandez for The Style Line.
*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2016 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT
I’m Dechel, the Founder
and Creative Director of GALERIE.LA. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I’m currently living in Venice. I love my lifestyle in Los Angeles. Living at the beach and working downtown LA, I get the best of both worlds. I enjoy and value my time. Spending it with the people and doing the activities I love most. GALERIE.LA is who I am right now. It’s funny to hear myself say that but as an entrepreneur, your vision really does shape who you are. GALERIE.LA is a combination of my passion for fashion and my purpose, which is to create a positive change on this planet. Before I launched GALERIE.LA, I spent 10 years as a Creative Director and Fashion Stylist working in the realm of entertainment. I even found myself on tour as a Wardrobe Stylist with top musicians like the Black Eyed Peas and Lil Wayne for a few years. And way before that, I spent my college years studying medicine in hopes to become a doctor one day. Boy did that all change! After many years traveling and working non-stop, I decided that I needed a change in pace. I eventually quit both jobs touring and began freelancing as a fashion stylist in LA. I loved it… every day was different and I worked on great projects and collaborated with so many talented individuals. However, I quickly realized that although I was in one place I still had the same work-a-holic mentality. After many, many signs, I began toying with the idea of opening a store -which today is GALERIE.LA. As an early stage start-up, much of my time is spent working on getting the shop off the ground, but I love every second of it. In my free time you can usually catch me at the beach, farmers market, art galleries or museums, great restaurants, hanging with my friends and family and adventuring off somewhere I’ve never been before.
From Instagram galleries to art galleries, whether intended or not curation is a huge part of our lives – especially in an increasingly digital age. With that in mind, talk to us about why you felt compelled to curate “the finest selection of women’s sustainable fashion” – what about this particular gallery stands out and what story are you hoping to tell through curation?
When it came to launching GALERIE.LA, a high-end sustainable fashion store I knew that curation would be key. The word sustainability in relation to fashion instantly triggers thoughts of yoga, DIY, organic t-shirts… basically everything a fashionista would not be caught dead wearing. As a conscious consumer, tastemaker of art, design, and fashion, I found that there were no stores curating an avant-garde, modern, classic product mix. I wanted to change this. The GALERIE.LA philosophy is to have a positive environmental and social impact that is not at the expense of style and design. We want our customers to have a simplified buying decision. I personally scout the most intriguing sustainable designers worldwide.
Each piece we carry is hand-selected based upon its quality of design and production following a sustainable strategy. Our badges system makes it easy for customers to make meaningful choices about what brands to buy and support. Since time is so valuable, we wanted to make it so simple to look good and do good!
What is your relationship to sustainability, how has it evolved and matured since launching galerie.la?
In 2013, I made a resolution to live a more sustainable lifestyle. After traveling the way I was, I began to notice the negative impact industries like fashion have on people and the planet. I was not even using the word sustainability before then. For me, understanding the word sustainability meant being consciously aware. The thought process that goes into how I consumed. To ask the questions: how are our clothes, food, and products made? Where do they come from? How were they made? I wanted to know the answers to these questions before I made purchases. Of course, this information isn’t always readily available but it has made me a pickier shopper. Doing more research before buying so that I do know. I see people who I look up to living on farms off the grid and really truly living a sustainable lifestyle. I’m not there yet, and by no means am I living 100% sustainable.
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However, it was important for me to pick a starting point to have a positive impact and that has spread into other areas of my life. Since starting GALERIE.LA, I have made the biggest shift to making sure that when it comes to shopping for clothes, beauty, and household products I do ask the questions and support the brands that are offering the best product with a positive impact and clean ingredients.
What is life, style and work really like in LA? Why do you think galerie.la is best suited to be built in a city like LA?
The work/life balance is great in LA. A lot of industries including fashion, film, music, and now tech are here. I think LA is a destination for the dreamers and doers. Chasing your dreams where the weather is almost always nice and you can be at the beach, mountains, and desert all within a short drive makes it a little easier. LA is a highly collaborative city, especially within the creative industries. Of course every city has its downfalls – and we have traffic that will make you go mad and of course, you’ll have to find your way around many pretentious people because this city was in fact built upon Hollywood (aka make believe).
LA is mixed when it comes to style. I would not say this city is a style destination like New York or Paris. Actually, LA can be very laid back when it comes to dressing. I usually feel overdressed. But, there are great pockets of style in this city- mostly individuals spread out that stick to their true personal style. GALERIE.LA is best suited for a city like LA because one it’s my hometown – I know it best, two because of the lifestyle and three it’s a city where people do care about sustainability and are still somewhat fashionable and don’t have many options when it comes down to a sustainable fashion shopping options.
How would you advise the next generation of makers, creative/fashion professionals or people, in general, to leave an imprint in the world just by doing what they love?
I once read a quote that basically said it is our responsibility to leave this planet in a better shape than we found it. It’s “our responsibility” that’s huge. We can start by being the change we want to see. As a creative, I say try many things to find what it is you love to do. Even if you don’t know what you want to do start by asking the question how can I serve will lead you to the right place. We’re often taught we’re supposed to know what we’re going to do for the rest of our lives at 18. It doesn’t always work out that way. Everyone is creative and needs to express themselves in some way. If you are smart enough you will find ways to do what you love and make money doing it. You don’t have to be lucky or rich to do what you love for a living. We spend most of our lives working so why not do what you love! When we’re happy doing what we love, we have a positive effect on others and this sets the tone for making a positive shift on this planet.
HOW DO YOU THINK CREATIVITY CONTRIBUTES TO SOME OF THE WORLD’S BIGGER CONVERSATIONS AND WHAT ROLE IS fashion PLAYING IN THIS SHIFT IN THINKING?
We’re all creative beings. Creativity is not just a term for expression through art and design. Creativity allows us to do business in better and more efficient ways than before. Providing new solutions for systems that are just not working.
In fashion, terms like personal style are thrown around so much it’s hard to really understand what they mean. So with that in mind, what does personal style mean to you? How has that definition changed over the years?
Personal style means staying true to you! As women, we are sold trend after trend after trend. It’s hard to keep up –and it’s very expensive – this is fashion. Even if you have strong personal style it is usually being shaped by other forces such as social media, magazines, runway shows etc. It’s hard to know where the trend begins and ends these days. I’ll always opt for having a strong personal style over being fashionable. These days, I’m more into creating and cultivating a wardrobe of timeless wear. Filling it with pieces that I love and I’m excited to wear year after year. This has been my motto for a while. Most of my clothing is vintage that I have styled to have a contemporary look. I stick to this way of dressing and it works.
What is one question that you wish people asked you more often?
“What’s your morning routine?” A friend recently asked me this on a hike and it opened up the space for such a great conversation.
The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration, and transit. With this in mind, what is “the style line” in your wardrobe?
My personal style line is comfort, versatility, and quality. Less is more for me and I’ve basically created a uniform, it’s chic of course, but it allows me to get dressed without much effort and I know I look good.