For Katharine Story’s Fashion, the World is Her Muse

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Katharine Story like the rainbow of glittering fashion hanging in her shop, radiates a kind of worldly playfulness.

Story is known for creating memorable articles of clothing, from barely-there halters to globally-inspired silk pants and kimonos. Many of her pieces are one-of-a-kind, but she does produce multiples of some pieces, like her dazzling, large-sequin party dresses she recently released for Spring.

The dresses, destined to be traffic-stopping, and other pieces can also be found at Jolie Boutique, the newest shop owned by Cherie D’Sa, who also runs La Bella in Long Beach. D’Sa has known Story for nearly 15 years and is a fan of her eclectic designs.

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Story’s fashion career started in London when she worked at the iconic department store Harvey Nichols. She taught herself to sew by trial and error and sold her wares in London’s Camden Market. It was in 1980’s London that she got her “aesthetic of what was cool,” she remembers. “Everyone was just free to create.”

Upon her return to California, she opened a boutique with a friend near where the Jack in the Box now stands on PCH. Later, she would open two Los Angeles stores and one on Ocean Avenue. “That was when you could do retail -- it’s just not the same now. You can’t create the business I have now. I have clients from 20 years ago that still come and see me and that’s gold,” she says.

Since opening her current location eight years ago, the international side of her business has opened up. “It’s always evolving,” she says. With runway shows in New York, Paris, and Rome, Story also sells her line via trunk shows. She hauls her collections all over the world, setting up shop from Morocco to Ibiza. “I make money as I go,” Story explains, noting that her love of travel makes it part of the fun. But she’s also always gaining new clients and business, because they get to see everything firsthand.

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Always designing for herself, her travels are what inspire each new collection.

“For me, my place is the Mediterranean,” she says. “It’s the girl I want to be. For daytime, it’s casual with kimonos, but in the evening it’s sequins and big heels. I design for that part of me that dreams of being there.”

This summer, Story will bring her collection of dramatic caftans, daring dresses, and rock-n-roll bell bottoms to Ibiza -- and who knows what adventures there will inspire her next collection?

While her colorful escapades delight her clients and over 20,000 Instagram followers, no matter what exotic locale she travels to she always loves returning to Laguna Beach. “You have to focus on what’s important. It’s all about the people around you,” she says. “My clients are my family.”

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Victoria Kertz is a journalist and the co-founder of Third Street Writers in Laguna Beach. She loves local theatre, traveling, and dining out. Follow her on Instagram at @victoriakertz.

Photos by: Grant Puckett.