Forgotten Saints, owned and operated by designer Cody Varona, offers one of a kind rock-wear pieces that she both designs and custom-makes by hand. Open for close to fifteen years at 7569 Melrose Ave, Cody has created something more than a clothing store. When entering Forgotten Saints, you’re walking into a living, breathing experience that embodies rock-n-roll.
Originally, Cody owned a shop in Orange County called The Catwalk which she opened in ’95. She moved to Melrose Ave after realizing a great deal of her clients were driving from LA to Orange county for her clothing. The location on Melrose was owned by a friend who carried similar clothes and as he transitioned out of the building, Cody moved in.
As a teenager growing up in
Detroit in the 80s, Cody would make original shirts that she and her friends would wear while going to shows. “I was a little punk rock kid,” said Cody. “There were no stores…you made your own stuff, your own clothing. We would go see bands six nights a week and the bands started asking who made our clothes.” So she started creating clothes for the bands that they would purchase. Word of mouth spread quickly. “There was a record store where everybody would go hang out and find out what was going on” she explained. “There was really never a plan for me to become a designer, it just kinda happened.”
Cody hand-makes everything in her store and laughs as she says, “that’s why my hands look like this.” She works every day at the store until 8pm, then goes home and starts designing around 10pm, knocking off around 4:30am. She’s quick to say it’s not work. “A lot of people go into this field to become famous. I do it for love. I love clothes, I love fabric. I love the theatrical part of it all.” After sneaking into an Alice Cooper concert when she was 12 or 13 years old, she saw the entire spectacle and knew that was what she wanted to do. “I didn’t want to be on stage, I wanted to make that spectacle.”
Being on Melrose, Cody sees a
lot of tourists come in but at the same time many customers visit because they’ve heard of the people she’s worked with such as Rob Zombie, John 5, Nikki Sixx, Marilyn Manson, DJ Ashba, Guns N Roses, Sixx Am, Buckcherry, Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandra), We are Harlot, Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden), Shinedown, Mick Mars (Motley Crue), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Alice Cooper, and more. For a full list, visit her website under the “Media” section at https://forgottensaintsla.com
“I have my own look and I’m just true to who I am and true to who my clients are,” Cody adds. A lot of the people that come in for the star appeal might not necessarily purchase the original threads, but they’ll soon purchase a t-shirt to become part of the Forgotten Saints tribe and community. “This is a real small niche, I don’t want to be everything to everybody.” Many come to the store just to chat with Cody. Regulars from other countries visit once a year to purchase her one-of-a-kind threads. People also just stumble into the store, not knowing about it, and appreciate the unique quality of her workmanship combined with an experience of truly finding a treasure in Los Angeles.
Explaining how she works with
clients, Cody says, “When you work with somebody, you get to know what they’re looking to do. You know about their personality, you get to know them, and it’s a personal thing. Luckily everybody I work with, I like their music, which is a plus, and if I do my job you’re gonna look awesome on stage.” She loves to create and she doesn’t try to push her style on anyone. Whether it’s over the phone, emailing back and forth, or working with someone directly on a personal piece, Cody tries to get a feel for the individual, what they’re into and then interprets what they want in her own style. “I want everybody to feel welcome. I have customers that are 14 and customers that are 65. Nobody’s getting judged.”
All the jewelry Cody carries in her store is hand-crafted and made in the U.S.A. by all types of designers. Cody makes a lot of editorial jewelry pieces that are, in her words, “sometimes big and crazy.” In the back of the store, you’ll find a gallery space where she displays art. Currently she’s showing Steven Adler’s (Guns N’ Roses) art. Next month, there will be an exhibit from Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot). And on Sundays, Forgotten Saints will be hosting “Acoustic Sundays,” an acoustic show for young bands to help get their music out.
Forgotten Saints’ custom rock-wear, jewelry, hats and scarves, art gallery, band showcases, trunk shows, book signings, cd release parties all make a statement that Cody cares. She cares about the state of the world, she cares about kids, she cares about animals. If you visit, introduce yourself to Muttley, Cody’s rescue bulldog who has his own Instagram handle: @Muttleysaints. And don’t forget to bring a banana or two…Muttley loves bananas! When people leave Forgotten Saints after spending time trying on clothes, talking with Cody, visiting with Muttley, checking out the art, trying on jewelry or just stopping by to chat, they leave having experienced a slice of home. As Cody says “We’re all travelers, really!”
Unlike corporate chains trying to sell you on anything and everything, you won’t get more real than Cody. She says it like it is and you’ll have a more fulfilling experience at her store because of it. When you shop at Forgotten Saints, you have the unique opportunity to talk to the artist herself and that’s worth more than any item money could buy. She is not shy in pointing out, “I just make clothes. They’re just clothes until someone puts them on…gets up on stage and there are lights and music and they’re running around. That’s when it becomes magic.”
7569 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
by Rob Tepper