Bldwn this month opens its first flagship under the direction of Johnathan Crocker in Los Angeles.
The 1,100-square-foot store at 8424 Melrose Place is the culmination of the fashion brand’s revamp that began when Crocker joined the company in 2018 as president and continued with his take for spring 2019. Crocker’s vision for Bldwn evolves the brand beyond its Midwestern roots to a fully realized, modern American fashion label inspired by American architects, designers and artists such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Warren Platner, Charles and Ray Eames, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. The new store exemplifies this new direction and will continue to roll out at new and existing stores.
“The last place to be articulated and the most important place is our retail experience,” said Crocker. “The web site is robust, but it’s two-dimensional. There’s nothing like entering a brick-and-mortar space. We had a lot of work to do to get there.”
Crocker joined the company when it was named Baldwin from AG Jeans, where he served as vice president of global communications. He shortened the brand name to Bldwn and in April moved the creative of the brand to Los Angeles from Kansas City, where it was founded by Matt and Emily Baldwin. The two remain with the company as board members and are still based in Kansas City, where the brand is headquartered.
Spring 2019, the first collection under Crocker’s leadership, has been received “incredibly well” by buyers, stylists, customers and influencers, according to the brand.
The Los Angeles flagship was in development for a year and began with the inception of the new creative direction. Crocker researched retail experiences and found Santa Monica-based Montalba Architects to be the common denominator for the stores that he gravitated toward. The architects designed for The Row and Isabel Marant, and partnered with the Bldwn team to create the new experience.
Crocker explained that the store “had to be intentional with how we lay out the space” and he “had a strong idea from the beginning” about the interior that features floating custom millwork and metalwork, and white oak, black solid steel and micro-ribbed glass materials. The new collection is displayed with vintage furniture and design pieces by Eames, Platner and Baughman that are for sale and will be replaced with vintage works with other American-designed works when sold. In addition, water and coffee are served with Match Stoneware ceramics.
“Every touch point and experience in third party ties back to American artists,” Crocker said. The store will also showcase ceramics, sculpting and photography of Los Angeles-based artists. “Despite a lot of brands walking away from brick-and-mortar, we still very much believe in brick-and-mortar and feel the digital experience complements it,” said Crocker.
Bldwn operated a store on Melrose Avenue that was previously occupied by Marc by Marc Jacobs, but moved to the Melrose Place address because the previous space “wasn’t the right location.” The brand operates seven stores in Los Angeles, New York City, San Jose, Austin, Dallas and two in Kansas City.
Crocker said that the stores that the brand wishes to remain in will be redesigned. “We’re loving the fluid process based on our leases,” he said, and the brand is prioritizing markets, but they “have to evaluate from different angles.” He also expressed interest in opening in new markets such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Southern California outside of Los Angeles, and Chicago, which is “top of the list.”
“More stores might mean we don’t open up in new markets, or we stay and continue in some markets,” said Crocker. “You can be in the best market, but if you’re not in the right location then it’s all for naught.”
Read More: Bldwn Spring 2019 Collection