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Weekday Wardrobe: How a French Designer Approaches L.A. Style

What happens when a Parisian decamps to sunny Los Angeles? “Funny story,” says Ahlem Manai-Platt. The designer made the move back in 2013, before founding her eponymous eyewear line, Ahlem. “The first day I moved to L.A., I had lunch at Gjelina with an L.A. friend. I was really excited. I wore jeans, a baby blue shirt tucked in, and a Borsolino white hat, clutch, and slip-on shoes. When I arrived, my friend was wearing a very loose tank top and tiny jean shorts. I felt extremely overdressed.”

According to Manai-Platt, wearing shorts never caught on, but the relaxed disposition did. While the first lunch may have made for a rocky start, since making the move out west, the designer has found a balance in both life and wardrobe. “Living in Venice didn’t change the brands I wear,” she says. But the way she wears them? Well, that’s a different story.

Chalk it up to her current stomping grounds, but the designer approaches dressing as a uniquely practical experience. When asked about the relationship between personal and professional style, she retorts, “There is no boundary between the two.” She lists brands like Comme des Garçons and Pleats Please as her go-tos—tailored but with an eccentric twist. So it should come as no surprise that her Monday-to-Friday wardrobe is equal parts chill and polished. And no surprise here, she knows exactly how to transform an ensemble with a simple pair of sunglasses.

To many women, eyewear is a flourish to an already perfected outfit. It’s the last piece one puts on before breezing out the door. Well, for Manai-Platt, there’s more to it. “I’ve always loved fashion and the idea that something small—red lipstick or a pair of sunglasses—can completely change the way you look and feel about yourself,” she says. It was, in part, that motivation to start small that led her to start her journey into business-building in 2014. “I wanted it to be something I personally connected to. I’ve been wearing sunglasses and playing with accessories since I was young, and I wanted to carve out a niche for myself in that arena.” Fast-forward and that niche has been whittled, bridging Manai-Platt’s inherent practicality and a “French irreverence” that hasn’t left since becoming a West Coaster.

See a full week in her wardrobe below.

video: Who What Wear
Photo: Paley Fairman

STYLING: Issey Miyake top and pants; Marni Sandals ($890); J. Hannah earrings; Ahlem Place Dauphine Glasses ($445).

One benefit of being her own boss: Manai-Platt prefers to keep planning to a minimum (that’s one way to beat the Sunday Scaries). “I don’t have a schedule. I actually never have,” she notes. This means that getting dressed is less about an occasion and more about an emotion. “I’m all about effortless pieces put together and going the whole day without needing to adjust my outfit.”

Wearing all white may seem risky to some, and yet for Manai-Platt, it’s all part of gearing up for the week. “After the whole weekend with my family, Mondays are hard, so wearing all white gives me the extra energy boost, along with a gallon of coffee.” A coordinated top and bottom mean that getting dressed requires minimal effort, but it also allows for accessories to take center stage. The final result is casual enough to move through the day without ever feeling overdressed.

Photo: Paley Fairman

STYLING: Pleats Please top; Issey Miyake Cropped Trousers ($851); Comme des Garçons x Converse Chuck Taylor ($135); Ahlem Place de l'Opera Sunglasses ($470).

Quirky skirted trousers or platform sandals may not inherently evoke the word “practical”, but you can rest assured that every aspect of Manai-Platt’s weekday wardrobe is connected by a vein of practicality. “I often run around on Tuesday, so comfortable shoes are a must,” she says of her sneaker choice. But she also finds a practical sensibility in places that others might easily overlook. “My bike is ready, and a colorful outfit makes me more visible on the street.” Not every L.A. resident can admit to biking around town, as all too often, commuting involves an hour stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the I-5. But it’s all part of the idyllic workweek the designer has created.

Photo: Paley Fairman 

STYLING: Dries van Noten dress; Pleats Please Trousers ($360); Marni sandals; Jordan Askill necklace; Jaeger Lecoultre watch; Lemaire earring; RSVP Clutch bag; Ahlem Place de la Concorde Sunglasses ($470)

If you live in Venice (or the greater L.A. area), a pilgrimage to Abbot Kinney’s buzziest restaurants is a requirement and an outstanding activity on Manai-Platt’s calendar. “[Wednesday is] my weekly lunch day at Gjelina or Gjusta, alone or at a meeting,” she notes. “I will never miss that escape.” As a result of this midweek ritual, Manai-Platt’s dressiest day of the week is, surprisingly enough, hump day.

A shirtdress and pants are a power duo for women in any professional setting, whether it be working from home or an ultra-conservative office. But the designer’s choice of quirky-cool minimalist brands like Dries van Noten and Marni gives the combination a sartorial bent. Add her stacked jewelry and an updated aviator and it’s a dressed-up look that works for a trendy lunch, whether it be for business or pleasure.

Photo: Paley Fairman

STYLING: Lemaire Silk Twisted Dress ($700); COS Metallic Socks ($9); Marni sandals; Jordan Askill and J. Hannah necklaces; Ahlem Pont des Arts Sunglasses ($395).

“Thursday is the day I am at the store,” says Manai-Platt, referring to her sleek Venice outpost. That requires an ensemble that’s “casual but not too much.” A simple blue dress makes for a seamless choice, but Manai-Platt has a styling trick up her sleeve (er, ankle) too. “I really like wearing glittery socks and sandals,” she says. For those who tend to stick to a simpler or more streamlined wardrobe, something like statement socks is an easy way to add visual interest.

Four days into the week, Manai-Platt’s ensembles highlight the fact that she generally shies away from trends, focusing instead on a handful of brands that she knows work on her from season to season.

Photo: Paley Fairman

STYLING: Pleats Please T-Shirt ($374) and Trousers ($360); Blaze Milano Trench Dress ($2315); Gucci Jordaan Loafer ($730); RSVP handbag; Dior; J. Hannah and Cartier rings; Ahlem Place de Alpes Sunglasses ($470)

A long week comes to a close, and Manai-Platt is dressed with one thing in mind: after-work drinks. “Friday is the day I skip half day for early Aperol with friends,” she says. “I am always ready for that.” Rose-tinted sunglasses are a trend that’s been cropping up everywhere of late, but on the designer, they feel more purposeful and personal. The sleek shape (along with the fact that they coordinate with the rest of her punchy ensemble) gives them a more timeless feel. Transitional dressing can be particularly tricky on a Friday when plans often flow seamlessly from work to after-hours fun. Manai Platt’s take on end-of-week dressing is professional sure, but it is infused with an effortless sense of fun.

That enduring commitment to an authentic style is part of what has propelled Manai-Platt’s professional success to such heights. “I think glasses should not be a mask,” she notes. “Eyewear should always be beyond trends. If it does not give you confidence, don’t wear it.” Replace the word “eyewear” with “personal style” and you are transported to that core, the distilled message of Manai-Platt that personal style is about introspection, ease, and comfort—it doesn’t have to be complicated. Throw on those sunglasses and know, “you can be beautiful and a badass.”