By  on October 2, 2008

Andy Warhol must be smiling somewhere.

Within the ivy-covered walls of Santa Monica’s fashion mecca known as Fred Segal, the Pop Art maestro’s philosophy of mixing art, commerce and instant fame is being tested in a new pop-up shop called 15 Minutes.

Run like an art gallery, where the shop’s structure is permanent but the theme, decor and wares on display change regularly, 15 Minutes was started by Jeannine Braden, owner of the boutique Fred Segal Flair, and John Moore, founder of a creative consultancy called Pencil On Paper Studio and former creative director for sportswear label Modern Amusement.

Friends for a decade, Moore and Braden teamed in July to rip down the walls, hang a sparkling chandelier and fill jars with neon-colored candy before opening the 650-square-foot shop across the hall from Fred Segal Flair on Aug. 21. Their first installation highlighted modern pointillist paintings by Matt Sohl and casual-cool clothes from Alternative.

“Retail has been a little flat, to be honest,” Braden said. “I wanted excitement.”

In an uncertain economy, the here-today, gone-tomorrow nature of pop-up stores appears ever more enticing. Featured fashion brands don’t bear the burden of finding suitable locations, negotiating long-term leases or paying for costly overhead — all of which are managed by the hosting retail stores that have the experience and staff.

“They get to have their vision and not the headaches of having a store,” Braden explained.

For Braden, who opened Fred Segal Flair in 1992 and runs another boutique called Post 26 in the Brentwood Country Mart, 15 Minutes allows her to transform the decor every six to 12 weeks, depending on the fashion brand and artist involved.

On Oct. 7, 15 Minutes will unveil photographer Neal Preston’s striking portraits of a bare-chested, bow-tied Iggy Pop and other rockers, along with Barronduquette’s slinky but sophisticated styles. As for the subsequent combinations of art and fashion, Moore said, “It could be anything.”

What is certain is that temporary retail businesses — whether they are called pop-up shops, installations or guerrilla stores — are becoming permanent fixtures on Los Angeles’ retail landscape.

Comme des Garçons is considering extending the life of its guerrilla store housed in a white-tiled nook off an alley in downtown Los Angeles past the usual one-year cycle because the shop is performing well. Toms Shoes will turn out the lights in the shop it opened last week on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard for good on Oct. 22, 10 days after Little Black Dress packs up its pop-up boutique on the Sunset Strip. Edun, the socially conscious clothing line created by rock star Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, aims to launch its own freestanding store soon, but in the meantime will open a pop-up shop on Nov. 4 for only 13 days in a boutique called TenOverSix on Los Angeles’ Beverly Boulevard. In coming months, Portland, Ore.-based Entermodal plans to build an outdoor factory at the Fred Segal complex in Los Angeles, demonstrating how it handcrafts its vegetable-tanned leather accessories.

Even a bit part in a group show helps. If it weren’t for New High (M)art’s decision to cram 18 brands into its 300-square-foot shop in Chinatown for a two-month run, Lenny Leleu, a 25-year-old aspiring designer from Belgium, probably wouldn’t have been able to sell her oversize T-shirts revolutionized with built-in corsets and open-back leotards in the U.S. for the first time.

The pop-up shop “keeps people creating new ideas,” Leleu said. “We should create something like this in Belgium.”

Alternative is already scouting for its next pop-up partnership after ringing up good sales for its $35 burnout Ts, $148 wrap cardigans and other wares sold at 15 Minutes.

“It gives people a taste of your product and keeps it fresh and always on people’s minds,” said Evan Toporek, chief operating officer at Alternative, which has its headquarters in Norcross, Ga., and a design and product development team in Los Angeles. “The sense of urgency would inspire people more than passing a [freestanding Alternative] store everyday.”

At 15 Minutes, Braden and Moore also test the limits of what a pop-up shop can offer. For $30, shoppers can evoke the fresh smell of Alternative’s cotton Ts with “Fleur de Coton,” the first in a series of bespoke perfumes created for each installation. In addition, Moore plans to print a limited number of books about the featured artists and fashion labels. After all, he said, 15 Minutes is “an incredible marketing platform.”

Spoken like a true Warholite.

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