Designer Mike Amiri discusses opening his new gallery-style space amid the pandemic, and the inspiration behind his latest collection
Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL
A mere six years after launching, L.A.-based luxury brand Amiri has opened a sleek boutique in Beverly Hills. Worn by stars such as Michael B. Jordan and Jay-Z, not to mention Gigi and Bella Hadid, the label’s signature MX1 denims, bandanna prints, handpainted jackets and Skel-Top sneakers now reside in a light-filled, 2,200-square-foot Rodeo Drive gallery-style space.
“Traditionally, when you think of L.A., rock ‘n’ roll, youth culture, there’s a visual landscape people have,” says founder and creative director Mike Amiri. “That idea felt saturated, more like a cinematic portrayal than the actual environment.” Punctuated with Calacatta Viola marble and art by Wes Lang (a Boyle Heights native known for his Kanye West collabs), the store is a first step toward hitting the mark.
Designer MIKE AMIRI stands in the window of the new 2,200-square-foot, gallery-style AMIRI store on Rodeo Drive. Photo by Lee Morgan.
“To me, it’s more a feeling and a lifestyle than surfboards. There’s an airiness, lightness to the environment that feels open,” Amiri explains. That’s the local anything-can-happen mood the designer, who is also the line’s CEO, set about creating to house his men’s and women’s collections alongside perpetually sold-out sneakers, boots and accessories. (Renzo Rosso of OTB Holdings — parent of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni — also holds a minority stake in the brand.)
Fall looks, inspired by a photo of a youthful Keith Richards stepping off an airplane, and “the idea of a young rock star thrust into a world of travel,” include prints evocative of souvenir scarves from far-flung locales and a small collaboration with French luxury house S.T. Dupont on silk shirts (the sort of thing Richards might wear). “It’s nice to have that dream again, the longing for travel,” Amiri adds.
Patterned designs and denim with the brand’s trademark embellishments — about 80 percent of the line is made in Downtown L.A. — are amplified by serene cream walls. Pierre Jeanneret caned armchairs and other low-slung midcentury designs join custom marble tables (including a foosball one for $26,000).
A marble foosball table sits alongside PIERRE JEANNERET chairs. Photo by Lee Morgan.
“I’ve always been a collector; it started with vintage T-shirts. That grew into old records, now it’s furniture,” Amiri confesses. “It started in Paris; after the shows, I would go to the flea markets.” The scale and proportion of the pieces fit the line’s aesthetic, honed by its purposeful scarcity. This, in addition to local production, proved crucial during the pandemic. “We don’t overproduce, so we didn’t have to pace down production,” he notes.
Looking ahead, Amiri sees room in his milieu for up-and-coming talent and predicts he’ll have new neighbors in the coming years. “Now the luxury consumer is a lot younger, and the future of the street [Rodeo Drive] is going to feel younger,” he predicts.
We talked to the designer about what went into the new store, what inspired his in-demand Skel-Top sneakers, and where he and the brand are headed next.
“I’ve always been a collector. It started in Paris; after the shows, I would go to the flea markets”
What does it feel like to be the first California-born luxury brand to have a store on Rodeo?
There’s not a lot of California brands there at all, but I feel like there will be. We’re showing there’s a new generation that has an appetite for luxury. It’s not just the traditional old houses that can hold that market, those people’s interests.
What prompted the foosball table in the boutique?
The identity of Amiri goes back to taking something fun and playful and reimagining that through a luxury lens. How do you make this feel luxurious? With Calacatta marble, beautiful walnut, understated architecture. Having that thing that’s fun but elevated. I grew up and learned about proper luxury execution, but mixing both high and low has always been a part of our DNA.
The store’s exterior. Photo by Roberto Garcia.
How did you discover Wes Lang? What initially connected you to his work?
The thing I love about Wes is that his work reflects his childhood, his love of music — the Dead — conversations he’s had with his father. I love that type of root and inspiration, it’s so authentic to the work. I visit Wes’ studio from time to time and we talk about life.
The Skel-Top leather high-tops, inspired by your doodles, sold out on the first day — what is the first thing you think about when evaluating a sneaker idea?
I’m wearing those shoes right now. I wanted them for myself. People walking by take a quick second look. What is that? Looking at the landscape of sneakers in general, there’s been years of big marketing collabs and a big culture created around that. I was interested in how to do it without big collabs. Stay true to yourself, find your place, going with the same mentality as I have with everything else. Reimagine something classic, in a playful way with less of this stringent attitude. We used the bones, an idea of a teenager, but with edge painting and beautiful delicate techniques executed as a luxury brand. The idea of a teenager but executed as a luxury brand.
MIKE AMIRI on Rodeo Drive. Photo by Lee Morgan.
You just showed your spring collection in L.A. for the first time, inspired by the notion of a rockstar coming home at the end of a tour.
It was fully designed in L.A. while we were in quarantine. It was nice to pause and reflect on the roots of the brand, that real L.A. influence. Every season inspiration comes from cues of my youth, but the real core is L.A., things about this city that are understated but really reflect that lifestyle. It’s a nontraditional view on the city and mood.
How has COVID-19 changed in-person shopping?
Now there’s a more thoughtful pace than the old speed of things. If you’re actually going to go out, you take your time.
What does it feel like to have everything — the collections, leather goods, shoes — together in the boutique?
I can equate it to collections on the runway. You finish this momentous thing and you’re happy but you reflect on it again and think about things you learned throughout that season. Going through this first one, I see elements and placements I can adapt for other locations. Signifiers that can carry on to other shops.
Would you do this all over again?
We’re opening next year in the Encore Esplanade in Las Vegas.
461 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, firstname.lastname@example.org for appointments.
Grooming by MICHELLE HARVEY at Opus Beauty using Oribe and Drunk Elephant
Feature image: Styles at AMIRI on Rodeo Drive. Photo by Lee Morgan.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of C Magazine.
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