Meet Cody Varona, the Maker behind Forgotten Saints L.A.
Growing up in Detroit, Rock City of the 1980s, designer Cody Varona got her first taste of fashion while sweeping the floors of a local garment company. In her spare time, she would hand screen-print logos of her favorite bands on shirts for her and her group of friends, before hitting the clubs at night. This creative outlet, and an undeniable penchant for design, spiraled into a career in fashion.
Read her story below
How’d you get your start?
I got my start making clothes for myself and friends. I was heavily into the punk scene and would go to at least 5 shows a week. The bands and other people started to ask me to make pieces for them. It was very organic . No plan, no expectations. I just had a passion for design and music. That led to going on tour with bands and finally opening my first shop in 1995. My brand then grew by word of mouth and my work has been featured in music magazines , music videos, film, and tv. I am lucky enough to work with bands and musicians that always give me design credit. Things really happened organically.
“When I started out there was no social media. I went to Kinkos armed with whiteout and magazine clippings and made my own flyers and handed them to anyone who would take one. ”
On a typical week, how many hours do you spend working on your creative enterprise?
I spend approximately 70-80 hours a week designing, sewing, and marketing. I know that sounds like a crazy amount of time! When people ask me what I do for "down time or relaxation" I laugh! I love what I do and I don't consider it to be work. I am lucky enough to do what I love.
Starting a creative enterprise is hard, what advice would you give to those with similar aspirations?
My advice to anyone getting into business for themselves is to have a passion for what you do, embrace your failures along with your successes, work at your craft everyday and don't rely on social media. Once the world opens up again, get out there and meet your customers, say hi and put a face to your brand. Also to give back; whether that is donating, giving your time, mentoring someone , whatever it is, give back.
“I have been working on puppets for an upcoming film. That was super fun to dive into!”
Describe your perfect day out and about locally.
My perfect day is coffee, design and Rosie's Dog Beach. I love taking my dog, Pinky Tuscadero, to Rosie’s. We all could learn from dogs. They run up and say, "hey you look fun, let's play!' They have no agenda, no bias, just live in the moment.
“Before I made a living designing I swept floors at a cut and sew factory, silk-screened t-shirts, worked as a carhop on roller skates, and a million other side hustles.”
How does your work march us to a better future?
I use reclaimed leather and denim, vintage fabrics, and do my research when I source supplies. I make pieces that are built to last, some of my clients have jackets that I made 20 years ago. I create special pieces and am not interested in fast fashion, trends, etc. I also go to a client’s home (when the world was open, and I am looking forward to doing this again) we dig through their closet and rework and reimagine what they already own. I get a ton of satisfaction from this process. I hear stories of where they got the piece, concerts they went to, and why the piece is so important to them. Everyone has great stories.