Inside Closet Visit, Jeana Sohn’s Homage to LA Style
Where street style ends, Jeana Sohn’s website begins. Closet Visit takes voyeurism to the next level, displaying some of Los Angeles’ most stylish ladies—Shiva Rose, Clare Vivier, and Jesse Kamm among them—from the point of view of their closets.
On an unusually hot day in L.A., I met the Sohn at her favorite Silver Lake coffee spot Lamill, to discuss style in her adopted hometown. Los Angeles is a city often-maligned for its style—Ed Hardy, anyone?—and Sohn had two goals when she began the site almost nine months ago: First, to have fun, and second, to prove that there was genuine style in the City of Angels. “Everyone thinks L.A. style is tacky, but we do have really good style in L.A.,” Sohn says.
Last year, everything in Jeana Sohn’s life boiled over. Having lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade—in her previous life she was a graphic designer in Seoul—she began to question her career path. She finally decided, “to try everything I wanted to try.” Spurred on by her husband’s gift of a Canon 7D, she asked her close friend and gallerist Heather Taylor to be what would become the first Closet Visit.
Closet Visit began without a roadmap, but Sohn had an inkling the site would resonate with readers: “In the back of my head I knew people would like it—I mean who wouldn’t like it? It’s someone’s closet,” she says with a laugh. Taylor agrees: “When she described what she was thinking about doing, I instantly knew she had struck gold.” Her artfully light photos of lithe girls in Victorian dresses and closets filled with enviable labels, have struck a chord with those who use the internet as a sort of aspirational style guide. Joanna Williams, a Closet Visit participant, explains Sohn’s appeal as such: “I love that it’s not about ‘fashion’ so much, but more about style, which I think always prevails.” Filmmaker Claire Cottrell, also a Closet Visit girl agrees, saying, “I know that Jeana thinks as much about each woman’s creative personality as she does their fashion sense. Her ‘stories’ are as much about unique women as they are about fashion.” Now her cup—and inbox—are full, run amok with demands to be the next Closet Visit girl. Some even go so far as to send video tours of their own closets. Whether she knows it or not, Closet Visit is like a club, with Sohn as its president. She shies away from propositioning people on the street, rather working from recommendations by previous Closet Visits or friends. Her reason being, “If someone says, ‘I want to take a picture of you, or I want to see your closet,’ It’s kind of creepy,” Sohn says. Inside Clare Vivier’s closet.
Unlike your average street style photograph, which captures a single moment, Closet Visit presents an entire sartorial biography. As you venture from closet to closet, with each click of the mouse, you see the Closet Visit girl reveal herself. She typically possesses a career in an artistic field: Whether it be as a designer (Alicia Lawhon, Kathryn Bentley, Melissa Coker), photographer (Pietsie Campbell, Stella Berkofsky), or even a granola maker (Lauren Soloff); She lives in a sun-filled home, most likely in the Mount Washington or Silver Lake area; Each closet is artfully curated from years of shopping, and is a mix of known brands, local designers, and vintage finds. “I think Jeana has an eye for true personal style and her subjects are always interesting, because they seem to incorporate both high end, vintage, and street style in a truly interesting way,” says Williams. Indeed, there is an interplay between the ladies featured, and the labels in their closet. The second Closet Visit was with handbag designer Clare Vivier, whose work is a staple in almost all the CV girls’ closets. The day I met with Jeana, she was in full CV-approved regalia: An outfit by Momo Suzuki, matched with Katherine Ventl’s jewelry, and topped off with a Clare Vivier bag.
As the site continues to find an audience, Sohn has her eye on other CV ventures, like fashion films. In April she debuted the first Closet Visit film, Stella, which premiered simultaneously at a screening at The Standard and on her site. Serving as director, Cottrell says her collaboration with Sohn happened by chance. “I stumbled on Jeana’s blog and I was obsessed instantly,” she says. “I emailed her, asking if she’d ever thought of doing a film to compliment her photography. She said yes, and we met for coffee and shot Stella two weeks later.”
Like Cottrell, its star, Stella Berkofsky is also a Closet Visit alum. The films (a second one has been shot, and a third is in the works) are “meant to capture the essence of a Closet Visit star.” Each film acts as a personification of a CV girl. Stella is all about “vintage,” shot with Sohn’s trusty Cannon 7D camera. The second film features Matilde Riccardi in Karen Walker, and is a more “girly, romantic, and magical” piece.
While Sohn still considers Closet Visit a hobby—“I have a job, and that’s painting”—her calendar is rapidly filling up with photography jobs for lookbooks. While she’s open to shooting more lookbooks, Sohn is dedicated to Closet Visit and hopes to one day publish a book. Back at Lamill, she comments that my outfit is “very New York,” and shooting Closet Visits in other cities is something that is very much on Sohn’s mind. “I want to see what New York is about,” she tells me. My feeling is she’ll fit right in.
Top photo via Jeana Sohn’s Flickr.