Sustainable Los Angeles label Christy Dawn is betting on brick-and-mortar with a new flagship on Abbot Kinney in Venice.
The cottagey space was created by acclaimed interior designer Matt Winter, who is also responsible for L.A.’s Gjusta and Manuela restaurants, among others.
With 1,500 square feet of indoor space and two outdoor areas for events, it has plenty of room for the brand to grow. It features its Farm-to-Closet collection of dresses made using regenerative agriculture practices front and center, as well as deadstock and organic cotton designs, artist collaborations, vintage books, apothecary items and an outdoor flower mart.
“We want to transport people,” said Aras Baskauskas, the brand’s chief executive officer, and husband to its model-designer Christy Dawn Peterson, pointing out such details as the 1920s tile at the entrance, the dried flower ceiling over the back room and the Michelle Blade-designed ceramics on shelves. (The artist is also making block prints for an upcoming dress collaboration.)
Christy Dawn launched in 2014, and has become known for dreamy, vintage-inspired dresses that nod to the small-town charm the designer grew up surrounded by in Placerville, Calif. The designer opened her first store on Lincoln Boulevard but it closed at the beginning of the pandemic.
The brand’s headquarters and factory are in downtown Los Angeles where sewers are paid a living wage to create the garments in a business model the couple believe is in keeping with a more humane vision of fashion.
“So much of the way we make our dresses is a throwback to a more analogue time-growing your own cotton and hand-making things,” Baskauskas said. “We live in such a digital time, it’s nice to come in and feel the dresses. We’re really excited about that and being able to offer an experience.”
The brand is expecting about $15 million in revenue in 2022, he said, noting that COVID-19 was a challenge in 2020, because they were unable to safely process returns, so instead sold everything final sale at 20 percent off. COVID-19 hit the L.A. factory over the summer of 2020, forcing it to shutdown and creating an inventory problem. “The first half of the year, the company did well, the second half was a struggle.”
The brand came to market with the first Farm-to-Closet collection in May of this year, and currently has 35 acres devoted to the project. “Our challenge is people still have difficulty wrapping their heads around sustainability, much less what’s next. And there’s a lot of greenwashing,” Baskauskas said of the public relations battle.
Christy Dawn is among a group of d-to-c brands leading the brick-and-mortar retail revival, with Farm Rio and Allbirds also opening nearby on Abbot Kinney.
“To be a d-to-c brand is beautiful in many ways, but the challenge is we don’t meet the people who wear our clothes,” Baskauskas said. “Every time someone tries something on, I want our store associates to write it down, this worked, this didn’t work. D-to-c, our return rates are 25 to 30 percent…but if you get direct feedback on fit, that’s the gift of the store.”