Only a creative could dream up a modular staircase for a flagship.
Imagine a 28-foot long staircase composed of nine pieces, each with wheels tacked on, allowing the unit to be whatever it’s needed to be for that week. One piece could serve as the cash wrap or dressing rooms, while others could be shelving or rolling racks. When the pieces combine they perform what contemporary label Frankie founder Kevin J. Chen, who also started and serves as chief executive officer of Mek Denim, envisions as a catwalk or stage for live music.
Welcome to Frankie’s flagship, located in a busy pocket of the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles where businesses, an artist cooperative and Urth Caffé are tucked away as nearby construction crews chip away at what will be the future home of SoHo House.
The 2,000-square-foot space will sell Frankie, upon its grand opening Aug. 25, but it will also be selling accessories, candles, fragrances and books from other companies. They’re dubbing it — not a boutique — but a CoLab space.
“It’s not the typical retail store. It’s for people to be inspired,” Chen said. “[It’s] something [where] people [don’t] necessarily have to buy something but accidentally they would buy something, because you don’t have purpose to buy anything. When you go shopping, why [do] you want to go to the store? Is it because you want to kill your time because you heard about the store? Most people, they’re just walking in the Arts District. People like to come here and discover something unexpected.”
Construction workers knocked out two large picture windows for the CoLab space, which looks out onto 5th Street. The boutique will be all white save for the exposed wood ceilings. LED lights mirroring the same shapes as those comprising the staircase will hang from the ceilings.
Frankie launched about a year-and-a-half ago and is now in about 40 doors, mostly boutique stores, including Frwrd by Elyse Walker, Satine, Need Supply Co. and Totokaelo.
The thinking behind opening a store at company headquarters is not unusual for Frankie. Chen a few years ago, like much of the rest of the industry, was thinking about the implications of the Internet and e-commerce on his business.
“We were talking about the Internet and what the impact would be for retailers,” he said. “Most people like to go shop online, but I think our lives are getting less interesting. So I’ve been thinking about how to create a unique concept to bring architecture, music, fashion and creativity together and this [was] the first choice. I think creativity, in a way, is very naive [and] very pure. Sometimes you can say [creatives] are stupid because I’m not expecting anything [from the store]. We do it because I want to do it.”
He fancies himself doing this same store concept, what he called “little recipe,” elsewhere in the world in key market such as New York, Miami, San Francisco and Paris.
There’s still more to do in Frankie’s own backyard before that happens. Aside from the store, e-commerce for the brand is set to launch around the same time as the flagship’s opening next month. There’s also the launch of a men’s collection for fall. And in the more immediate future is a private presentation of the resort 2017 collection of about 70 stockkeeping units ranging from $400 denim made in Los Angeles to leather jackets priced at as much as $3,200 made in New York.