Make an appointment with designer Nataya at her new Melrose salon, and you will be greeted with Italian coffee - and very possibly lunch or dinner. 'I love cooking, but I hate cooking for myself,' says the 31-year-old Uzbekistan native.
Climb a steep flight of stairs, walk down a nondescript corridor and knock on a red door, and you're ushered into the salon by Nataya herself. Her huge brown eyes and self-effacing nature are immediately disarming. 'I talk too much. Tell me if I say too much!' she begs, with a huge smile.
The apartment is decorated in mannequins adorned with Nataya's dreamy, fanciful designs. She is wearing an ornate red and black pinstripe dress that is oddly reminiscent of a bar-room brawl in the Wild West. 'This collection is based on fairies and fairytales, so this is my cowboy fairy dress,' she explains. 'In fashion you can do or imagine anything you want - it's a fantasy world!'
Her designs may have Western influences, but they are very much inspired by her homeland. 'I'm from Uzbekistan, so I'm attached to everything that is baroque and bold, in rich fabrics. A little too rich!' she laughs. 'I love velvet and beads, detail upon detail, on top of detail. But because I've stayed for so long in the Western world, I've made sure that I have calmed down.
I've been designing for as long as I remember,' she continues. 'My first outfit I made when I was 11. I like to use a lot of handwork in my designs. I appreciate everything that is old-fashioned. I love appliqué, macramé, embroidery and knitting.'
After learning the fashion trade as a designer for Papillon, Nataya started creating her own collections in 1996, and today she is dressing stars as well known as Natasha Henstridge and Jennifer Blanc.
'I design for very, very feminine girls. I am very much a woman and that's how I see the women who wear my clothes. My label name is my name, so it's very personal.'
The rationale behind the new salon is simple. 'I love people, I love food, I love style,' she explains. 'I love dressing women and telling them how to wear things. I basically want to have control of where my clothes end up and how they are going to work. I don't know if it's a good thing, but I want women to learn how to wear feminine clothes.
'We are so used to wearing jeans and shirts. You go to the store and you don't see anything that's a complete piece of clothing. Everything has to be assembled, assembled, assembled. Of course it's less expensive that way, and it's easier for rotation. But I come from the mentality of having three dresses per season - and they'd better be fabulous.'
Visiting her salon promises to be a very personal experience for her clients. 'When I meet someone and see what their body and coloration are like, I can create a design for them,' she says. 'It's more intimate than formal. I want to build an intimate relationship with people I work with. I want to be part of their closet.
'For my friends, I go through their closets and pull things out that they don't like. People keep things that aren't in fashion any more and they don't wear them any more, so I pull them out and throw them away. I really care how people look - I want them to look their best.'
A Nataya design costs around $300, while a custom-made design costs $600-700. The Salon of Fine Dressing and Style is located at 705 North Poinsettia Street, Los Angeles, CA90046. Call 213 327 5580 for an appointment.
If you would like to find out more information on Nataya and her designs you can visit her website at: