A crop of cool L.A. shops earn the Louis Vuitton seal of approval
Building Block deconstructs the very concept of the handbag using the highest principles of industrial design and construction: L.A.-based sisters Nancy and Kimberly Wu are former designers for Honda and Nike respectively. Since 2011, they have worked to “clear away conventional standards of luxury by magnifying what is essential and editing out excess.” They have disposed of bulk, metal hardware, decoration and even traditional handles, and distilled staples such as the bucket bag to their primary functional shapes. What remains are clean-lined architectural works of pure restraint. The Puck is a simple, perfect circle; the aerodynamic Wave Tote is a rectangle with a curved half-moon opening. Wood often replaces metal: a version of their Wristlet cylinder has a string of large wooden balls for a strap. Bags, belt packs and iPhone slings are handmade in smooth and pebbled leather in black, kombu green, vegan tan and the occasional burst of sun yellow at their Chinatown studio-store. 970 N. Broadway, Unit 104, Los Angeles, 323-803-3420; building–block.com.
Downtown L.A. + Venice
LCD’s flagship boutique is all gorgeous shades of orange, from the terra-cotta jute flooring to the corduroy sofa to the bronze velvet curtains in the fitting room. Geraldine Chung, an ex-Atlantic Records executive who founded LCD in 2012 after moving back home from New York, is on a self-confessed mission to foster the (oft-female) rising stars of independent fashion. One hundred have already passed through her doors, which first opened in Venice. Chung’s unique point of view is also informed by a childhood in Asia and teen years spent in SoCal’s tomboy surf and street culture. Eighties skater style is resurrected in streetwear by Alyx and Perks and Mini. Quirky, cutting-edge labels Priscavera, Henrik Vibskov and Colovos are fit for the music scene. More lady-like sensibilities appear in Rejina Pyo, Charlotte Chesnais and Silver Lake’s Creatures of Comfort. LCD also has an exclusive partnership with Californian leather goods brand VereVerto and was the retail partner for L.A. nonprofit Sexy Beast for Planned Parenthood’s T-shirts, designed by Virgil Abloh x Jenny Holzer. Row DTLA, 1318 E. Seventh St., Ste. 126, L.A., 213-372-5525; 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Ste. 2, Venice, 424-280-4132; shoplcd.co.
Rhode Island School of Design graduate Mike Eckhaus and California native Zoe Latta make gender-fluid clothes that redefine sexuality — men wear their dresses. It seems fitting that their small, art-filled brick-and-mortar store, opened in June 2017, is located among the galleries of Arlington Heights, near The Underground Museum: after only seven years, Eckhaus Latta has been featured at the Hammer Museum, Venice Biennale, MOCA and MoMA PS1. Eckhaus Latta remains an underground label at heart, even if their recent work is also their most commercial, ranging from boxy silhouettes to slinky knits and rayon. And sexuality remains a strong presence: they have made limited-edition sex kits for Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard; Latta’s father makes their IUD-shaped earrings; and a recent campaign featured real couples having sex. 3311 W. Washington Blvd., Arlington Heights, 323-905-2882; eckhauslatta.com.
L.A.-based Parisian designer Ahlem Manai-Platt, formerly a photojournalist and buyer for Acne and Miu Miu, has a good eye and an interesting philosophy. Embracing the ethos of the Bauhaus movement, which resisted soulless manufacturing in the early 20th century, Ahlem’s eponymous luxury eyewear similarly aims to counter today’s mass-produced spectacles. Each frame is handcrafted by nine separate artisans and takes inspiration from the timeless architecture and spirit of her home city. Founded in 2014, Ahlem’s brand was a runner up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize in 2017. 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 424-268-4236; ahlemeyewear.com.
It matters little that generous-spirited milliner Gladys Tamez is quasi-official hatter to Lady Gaga — she created the singer’s $1 million Swarovski-embellished showstopper for the 2016 Victoria’s Secret show — Beyoncé and Johnny Depp. Here, the haute salon experience, which harks back to 1950s Paris couture, is delivered with the warmth and sincerity of a Mexican family gathering. Tamez and her congenial partner, Oliver, count among their extended family graffiti artist RETNA — his hieroglyphics emblazon their art-adorned atelier warehouse — and furniture designer Sami Hayek, brother of Salma, who handcarved the studio mirror. The daughter of a Lancôme model, Tamez studied at Florence’s Lorenzo de Medici and Scuola di Moda before training under milliner Louise King. Her masterpieces are full of references to art and historical fashion and her technical skill infused with personality and wit. A 1920s Optima mould inspired her architectural Optimo line, and her Zodiac range incorporates astrological symbols ingeniously hidden in the crown. A warehouse wall of antique hat moulds, hat luggage and charming craftsmen working on vintage machines makes this the hospitable holy grail for hat aficionados. 2347 E. Eighth St., L.A., 310-694-0668; gladystamez.com.
Excerpted from Louis Vuitton’s Los Angeles City Guide.