Stylist Keyla Marquez in front of Hotel Casa del Mar.

Keyla Marquez: Style for Miles

Text by Suzy Exposito
Images by Tim Aukshunas

Two blocks away from Santee Alley, the downtown hub for the city’s most savvy wholesale shoppers and D.I.Y. fashionistas, is where fashion phenom Keyla Marquez operates her styling and wardrobe rental business, LUJO Depot. Inside, she combs through racks of designer clothing in eye-popping shades of hot pink and Orange Julius—neighboring an array of black leather and latex goods, accented with industrial hoops, tassels and other splashy accoutrements. When I ask about her latest project, she gestures towards a mood board littered with Tarot cards and looks that correspond with their meanings. It’s a concept she devised after pulling some cards for herself.

“For me, fashion is all about storytelling,” she says enigmatically, lighting a Palo Santo candle. “What’s your story?”

As a stylist to the stars, Marquez has counted intrepid artists like Frank Ocean, Rosalía and Becky G among her clientele. Now, as fashion director for the L.A. Times’ über-chic lifestyle magazine, IMAGE, Marquez has used the space to flaunt the city’s distinct urban style, through the eyes of the people who keep it running: communities of color, immigrants, and their dauntless city slicker children.

“I grew up delivering the L.A. Times with my parents when I was a teenager,” Marquez marvels, nearly two years into her tenure at the paper.

Marquez was born in 1985 in El Salvador, where she came from a long line of dressmakers. “I was literally born into fashion,” she says. “My mom had her own clothing line and so did my grandmother. I grew up running around their factories, making dresses for my dolls. My aunt would make me the craziest dresses, and I always looked like a princess.”

Yet by the late 1980s, civil war had swept the Central American country. At the age of 5, Marquez and her family fled to the United States on foot, passing through Guatemala, Belize and Mexico before they settled in Studio City. While her parents worked double shifts, Marquez spent her high school years poring over fashion magazines and orbiting skate parks with her friends. After high school, she landed a job at a local American Apparel, the L.A. brand known best for its skin-tight, dayglo bodysuits that changed the course of 2000s style.

The label’s upcycling of 1970s and ‘80s aesthetics inspired Marquez to approach her own personal style, long shrouded in black, baggy skater fare, with much more glamour. 

Marquez readies a Waves model for her closeup.

“There opened this new world where you’d dress up to be seen at parties, then wake up the next morning and read the blogs to see if your photo was uploaded,” says Marquez. “Fashion bloggers were the new fashion critics of the time. [Blogs like] The Cobrasnake and Last Night’s Party were the runway.”

Moved to make a scene on these digital runways, Marquez convinced her mom to finally teach her how to sew. “I made all my clothes based on this one pattern that my mom gave me, and I made a new outfit every night before going out,” she says. “Like a Cinderella dress, it would fall off me by 2 a.m.”

Her dresses eventually piqued the interest of local boutique sellers, who began selling her limited-run creations; she named her label “Howl” after the epic Allen Ginsberg poem, with a nod to the spirit of the Californian beatniks of yore. Mischa Barton, star of the CW series The O.C., was photographed rocking a few of Marquez’s colorful designs through West Hollywood.

Marquez eventually took classes in fashion merchandising to better hone her business acumen, and worked with fashion photographer friends to build a following on Instagram. It was while working a day job at an architecture firm that Marquez received her first big break in 2017: she was asked to style Frank Ocean on tour that year, while promoting his seminal avant-R&B album, Blond. “Going on tour and seeing Frank wear stuff I curated…I was like, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do,’” she says.

Deflated by the increasing dominance of fast fashion, and the paint-by-numbers looks she sees prescribed on TikTok, Marquez says she’s reverted back to hitting old costume design books for inspiration and even finds herself mining the alt fashions from her teen years at the skate park for material.

“I’ve always been inspired by my city and the kids here,” she says. “I love going to flea markets to see what people are wearing. I love going to shows, art openings. In L.A. you’ll see someone wearing a $600 sweatshirt with a pair of old Dickies and Gucci loafers—I call it ‘high low’ fashion. We can make it luxe, but we also make it relatable.”

See Keyla’s work as a stylist on display here.

Waves is an immersive media platform developed exclusively for the Edward Thomas Collection, founded in 1982 by Edward and Thomas Slatkin, who follow in the footsteps of two previous generations of proud family hoteliers and continue to develop and redefine the role of successful ownership and operation of luxury hotels.