Courtney Ogilvie of Les Tien "we went off last night on the color of the sky"
Two trips along Mulholland Drive, two years apart.
Let’s take the last one first. A few months ago, Courtney Ogilvie, the creative director, designer and founder of Les Tien, took a late summer night’s drive across the spine that divides LA from the Valley and offers vast views of both.
To say that Ogilvie likes color is akin to saying Mozart liked music. It’s beyond mere affection, bordering on beautiful affliction. It’s her lifeblood.
She sees color in sound, literally (“this weird learning disability,” she says). She sometimes looks at the differing dirt accumulating from her explorations and designs entire collections around that palette.
And so on this night, the array of color and detail unfolding endlessly beneath her gaze left Ogilvie in a state of ecstasy.
“It’s crazy. Like we went off last night on the color of the sky. The sharpness,” she says. “You literally could see, on the top of Mullholland, every single little house, you know?”
“To me, I want to see that detail in my product. It’s like, living is rad …Living helps me design.”
Two years ago, things were different. Ogilvie at that point had already built two tiny empires, LA Makers and Fit & Supply and was on many of the “30 under 30” lists of the preternaturally gifted and most influential creative talents shaping our culture. But somewhere along the way she’d lost herself. Everything she designed was for somebody else — somebody else’s brand, some other idea of success. Then everything came tumbling down.
“I didn’t see a purpose anymore,” she says. “My mom had just died, I had just gotten a divorce, I lost everything, and I didn’t see a reason to continue designing and continuing to create. I had to lose everything.”
Later she would understand the staying power of surrendering to what you most love. But before she gave up, she had to understand what she was holding on to. Her mantra became: “Nothing is enough.”
“Giving up was the most extreme thing that ever happened in my life that shaped who I am today…Right before I gave up on everything and I was like, ‘I am done, and I am going to drive my car off Mulholland and call it a day,’” she recalls. “I got there. I lost the point of what my vision of success was…My mom always told me, ‘Live under a bridge, be cold, broke, and hungry, but never stop designing. Someday, somebody will see it; you’ll get your break.’ That’s success: doing what you love every day. Live it.”
Courtney Ogilvie wants to live in that space of creation. And she wants every article of clothing that is produced by her brand to last. Those two things are very connected. The two years between those two drives along Mullholland gave rise to Les Tien.
“Through that two-year depression, I built Les Tien, which was just creating product that was simple but so well done,” she says, summing up her brand’s ethos: “I can sew a hoodie better than you can sew a suit.”
“I want to be in longevity — of the silhouette, longevity of apparel. I want to be in a place of creation.”
Les Tien has caught fire. Celebrity influencers and pro athletes are wearing the brand, known for its simple T’s and hoodies and loungewear-like sweatsuits. Les Tien is elevating the very idea of basics. But Ogilvie isn’t in this for celebrity.”That’s not who I am.”
Maxfield has played an essential part in the rise of Les Tien. Ogilvie gives credit to more than giving a space to show her brand; Maxfield, she says, made the vision possible.
“Maxfield is the top of the food chain, man…the best of the best,” she says. This isn’t just a store. This is a respect of who is who and what is what.”
Through her travail, Maxfield remained a beacon for Ogilvie, a warm light, a home where her outsized creativity was always nourished.
“If you keep doing what you love, it works,” she says. “I’ve been filthy rich and I’ve been homeless living in my car, and in that order. I’ve had it all. I literally a year and a half ago was living in my car and I was a millionaire five or six years ago. And you know what, it’s interesting that people like Maxfield still talk to you, they still give a… they still want to know, what are you thinking about? And that’s a beautiful thing.”
I want to make an essential piece, a piece that everybody needs, at the top tier of construction and longevity, that will last forever. Do you want to know why they buy my hoodies, not to toot my own horn, or my basics?” Ogilvie asks. “Dude: my basics. I look at old Celine, sewing, and I look old Dries, sewing, and I look at old Galliano and old Comme des Garcons, and I do that in basics. Because Maxfield challenged me to think outside the box.” Les Tien,
“I’m a true quality-driven garmento, I’m the loudest [mofo] in the room, and I’d give you the shirt off my back. And I think anybody who really knows me that I’ll give you anything.” Les Tien, translated from the French to ‘yours’, is unisex and focuses on inclusivity and timelessness. Ogilvie cements herself and her brand as the antithesis of fast fashion and the purveyor of ‘perfect basics’ cut in elevated fabrics with her acute attention to fit and comfort.
“Proportion is everything...”
“That is the story of me,” she says. Her life is aligned with her designs. Les Tien is increasingly known for many things — the muted yet somehow brilliance of its colors, its reinvention of something as old, common, and overlooked as a perfect fitting sweatshirt — but in life as in design Ogilvie is a master of proportion.