Laguna Beach’s most fashionable locals reflect the community’s eclectic creativity.
By Sharael Kolberg
When it comes to style, Laguna Beach toes the line between coastal-casual and urban sophistication. Laguna’s miles of shoreline, sandy coves and range of popular ocean activities certainly influence the hoards of surfers who roam the streets in flip-flops and board shorts, but the city is also known for its downtown HIP District, which offers a variety of one-of-a-kind boutiques and vintage consignment shops. Throw the town’s artistic roots into the mix, and it becomes apparent that a variety of styles are represented here in Laguna. Whether working in an office, playing at Main Beach or opening a gallery exhibition, these five locals show off unique senses of style, inspiring the rest of us to do the same.
The Understated Restaurateur
“Anyone [who] can pull off wearing a T-shirt and jeans at any event is a fashion icon to me.”
As the owner of Casa Resorts Inc., whose stable includes several Laguna Beach institutions—La Casa del Camino, K’ya Bistro Bar, The Rooftop Lounge, House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, and the Marine Room Tavern—Chris Keller prefers to be casual and comfortable both on and off the job.
When Chris gets dressed, he usually throws on a pair of jeans, a basic black T-shirt and sneakers. This casual approach to life might not be what’s expected from someone who’s managed to make a name for himself in Laguna’s competitive restaurant industry, but it’s an attitude that Chris admires.
“Anyone [who] can pull off wearing a T-shirt and jeans at any event is a fashion icon to me,” he says. To achieve his signature look, he prefers to shop at local surf stores and collects denim by environmentally conscious brand Reuse Jeans, which he pairs with classic Converse sneakers.
Outside of work, Chris’ recreational activities of choice also require casual attire. When not focusing on his business, he enjoys paddleboarding, spending time at the beach with his family and working out at local gym Art of Fitness.
The Throwback Surfer
“I wear what I like and don’t care what anyone else thinks. Personal style gives you self-confidence, makes you comfortable.”
When he’s not surfing, Corey Brindley, the main buyer and creative director for Thalia Surf Shop on Pacific Coast Highway, can be found wearing ripped jeans and a tank top layered beneath a button-down shirt. He describes his vintage-inspired style as “a bit of 1970s surf with 1960s mod.”
Unsurprisingly, Corey’s favorite place to shop is Thalia Surf Shop, but he also occasionally scours local thrift stores for rare finds. Even though he works in surf fashion, he notes the trends of the industry don’t typically influence how he dresses.
“I wear what I like and don’t care what anyone else thinks,” he explains. “Personal style gives you self-confidence, makes you comfortable.”
Over the past four years, he’s made quite an impression on new acquaintances not only with his clothing but also with his handlebar mustache, of which he comments, “No pun intended, it just grew on me.”
Corey admits Laguna inevitably has influenced his personal style, but perhaps not in a way most people would expect. “People like to believe that Laguna is laid-back all the time,” he says. “I beg to differ. … Laguna is ever-changing, from businesses to trends to artists. I’d like to think that’s how my style relates to Laguna—always changing.”
The Preppy Gallerist
For gallery owner Peter Blake, simplicity is best when it comes to fashion. The art connoisseur’s sense of style mirrors the design of his eponymous gallery, which he says is focused on reduction and minimal abstraction.
Peter describes his style as contemporary preppy, even attesting to wearing pieces by Polo Ralph Lauren daily. “There is always somebody playing with a horse on my shirt,” he jokes. “I know what I like. I buy all my clothes at Polo. It’s easy, comfortable, not trendy and never goes out of style.” He prefers the brand’s traditional basics, like khakis and cotton button-down shirts, and swears he only owns one black suit.
Sharing his views of local and personal style, Peter says, “The town doesn’t influence me, or I’d be wearing board shorts and flip-flops, and owning a gallery doesn’t influence me, or I’d be wearing a Gucci suit every day.”
He adds, “I’m not dressing for anybody, but I am wearing more color this year than any other time in my life, and that has influenced what I’m showing in my gallery.”
The Minimalist Artist
“I identify my work with what I wear,” local abstract artist (and Peter’s longtime girlfriend) Stephanie Bachiero explains. “My sculpture and my fashion are in sync.
Uninfluenced by passing trends, Stephanie is entirely confident in her personal style. Mirroring her art’s singular minimalism, she most often can be found wearing an effortlessly chic staple: the little black dress.
She typically forgoes accessories and jewelry, instead rounding out her look with her hair, which is cut into a chin-grazing bob. She prefers to dress in natural fibers, and admits to a hatred for wearing makeup.
Stephanie never chooses clothing based on brand names. Instead, she frequents local boutiques, approaching the shopping process with an artistic perspective. “Something has to capture my eye,” she says. “It must have a visual component, but not too much too look at.
The Classic Career Woman
“I don’t really like to shop, so I like to have clothes that I can hang on to forever; things that last a long time.”
As the associate publisher at Firebrand Media Inc., which publishes Laguna Beach Magazine, Cindy Byrne strives to infuse a sense of refinement into her wardrobe.
“I tend to be conservative and try to mix in things that are more classic,” Cindy says of her personal style. “I don’t really like to shop, so I like to have clothes that I can hang on to forever; things that last a long time.”
Like her style icon, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Cindy is drawn to pieces that are simple in construction but make bold statements. “I like clothes that are flowy and unstructured, but have a clean line,” she says.
When it comes to shopping, she prefers to hunt for basics—cotton or linen blouses, pencil skirts and sheath dresses, to name a few—at Banana Republic, J.Crew or Saks Fifth Avenue. Locally, she stops by Sasha, Isla Boutique or one of Laguna’s specialty consignment shops.
Describing her impressions of local style, Cindy admits, “You can be who you are at all times and no one is offended by it, but at the same time, people don’t want to see you too dressed up here. People are uncomfortable with that.” LBM