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Fashionable immersion in LA

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016 Katina Curtis

Lily Blue Goschen finishes showing the best way to attach old drink can tabs to a gauzy dress on a live, mostly naked model, and hands me the needle and thread.

I've signed on to be the couture fashion designer's studio assistant for the afternoon as part of one of Airbnb's new experiences.

Goschen usually offers an immersion in the Los Angeles fashion world over three days, but our group has just one afternoon so we get a short taster.

We meet at Goschen's favourite eatery, the Graffiti Cafe in the Miracle Mile neighbourhood, to get to know each other over coffee and juices. The London-born designer explains she loves the cafe because it's a hub for creative people from many fields and the owner is always making introductions that often end in unexpected collaborations.

Goschen is a self-taught designer who started out as a sculptor - the experience she hosts is called Sculpting Couture - before moving into fashion.

Right now she is working on a pair of dresses for a music video, one of which has to be filmed underwater, and that's what we'll be helping with.

"Because I'm very very isolated doing my work I love the idea of meeting people from all over the world and hope they can go away with some inspiration," she tells AAP.

"I'm all about breaking through creative blocks."

The first stop en route to her studio is just around the corner: The Way We Wore, a renowned vintage store owned by Doris Raymond.

The staff let us into the amazing "inspiration cave" next door to the shop - not normally open to public - which is absolutely stuffed with vintage clothes, fabric swatches and fashion books gathered during Raymond's 30-plus years in business (she's the antithesis of decluttering guru Marie Kondo, one of her staff jokes). It's the domain of designers from the world's top fashion houses, who come seeking inspiration and references for their next collection.

The second stop is Mood Fabrics, the west coast outlet of the shop made famous on reality show Project Runway.

In The Way We Wore, our group wandered around, gazing at everything in awed admiration; in the fabric store Goschen puts us to work. She's after laces and gauzy fabrics for a collar and the six of us fan out, eager in our treasure hunt.

For a hobby sewer like myself, Mood is a dream with its thousands of rolls of fabrics stacked high to the ceiling, including end rolls from designers like Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta. But Goschen is on a mission (and a budget) and resists the temptations.

When she has more time, she takes groups to the downtown fashion district where there are smaller stores with big bargains for those prepared to dig through piles of fabrics.

We then walk the few more blocks to Goschen's studio - the living room of her small apartment - where her friend and fit model Lucy Sheftall is waiting with champagne and afternoon tea.

There the work begins as Goschen shows us her half-completed creations and demonstrates how to make the fabric collage she's using for the collar of one, and attaching the can tabs onto the other.

We're probably nowhere near as efficient as the designer working on her own, with the afternoon filled with chatter and stories, but she seems excited to share her knowledge.

Goschen's experience is among the first batch offered in 12 cities as part of Airbnb's biggest expansion to date.

The services, available via Airbnb's smartphone app, let locals act as tour guides to share their city and passions.

They give travellers the chance to do anything from a few hours learning to fight with Samurai swords to spending three days learning how to take and print photos of shooting stars.

"These aren't tours, you actually participate, you immerse and you join the local communities," Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky said at the November launch.

Airbnb hopes to expand the service to at least 51 cities by the end of 2017, including Sydney, and is taking applications now from people who have an idea for what they want to share with the world.

* The writer travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Airbnb.

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